If You Don't Shop at Dollar General, You Should!


I love Dollar General, and learned long ago that you can save money on everything from food to cleaning supplies there. Long before they have refrigerated and frozen food, I bought their store-brand dry goods and canned foods. My favorite savings items there are their snack foods, because the store brand of many of their items is less than half that of name brands and just as good. Today, I went in to buy a couple of things just to get me by until I could get to the grocery store, and ended up saving a lot more than I intended. These are a few of the buys I got.

Butter - store brand salted butter on sale for $2.50 a pound. I bought two, and may go back for two more. With butter at $4 a pound even at Save-a-lot, this is an awesome buy. I can keep butter in the freezer, so I try to get it while it's cheap.
Bread - plain, white sandwich bread is only $1.25 there every day. They sometimes have it on sale for $1, but I needed it today, so I ought it at regular price. Publix and Winn Dixie's comparable breads are $1.49. Yes, I realize white bread is "not good for you," but if you're from the South you know it's the only bread that makes good grilled cheese and BLT sandwiches, so there!
Stax snack chips - $1 every day. They only have plain and bbq flavors, but I love the bbq, so this saves  me .50 each over Pringles. They have Pringles on sale sometimes for $1 each, so I stock up on the different flavors then.
50% off Halloween Candy - Got a $5 bag of mini Tootsie Rolls for $2.50. There are enough in that bag to last me awhile, since I limit my candy intake.
Mandarin oranges - I was buying the 4-packs for $2 because I like to freeze them. One day they were out, and since I had saved a lot of the little plastic cups for planting seedlings, I bought two of the cans at $.75 each. I wanted to see just how much was in these cans, so I refilled some cups and covered them with foil for freezing. Surprisingly, I got 5 cups instead of 4 for a total savings of $1 ($.50 savings up front plus $2/4 = .50 ea. so 1 additional cup at a value of .50 = $1 total savings).

If you subscribe to their site, you get notified of special sales and can put digital coupons on your account. You simply tell them at the register that you're using digital coupons and get your savings. 


This week from 11/12 thru 11/14 only, they are having a 3-day sale with Libby's canned vegetables (corn, green beans and peas) for 3/$1. You'd better bet I'll be stocking up on those! They also have Progresso Soups for 3/$3. I like homemade soups, but it's always nice to have a good stockpile of nice canned soups for the winter. You have to buy 3 (or multiple thereof) of each of these to get the deals, but that's fine with me, since I'm stocking up. I will probably buy about a dozen of each of these specials. For you Keurig lovers, a few brands of K-cups are on sale during these 3-days also.

I wish I had more money, because they have $5 off on hoodies, and I do love my hoodies in the winter. Alas, I'll have to pass this time, but I'm sure there will be somewhere I can get them cheap again before the really cold weather hits. Have to be quick, though, because they are few and far between after Christmas. 

Check out their website to see everything in the flyers, and also try some of their store-brands. I like their coffee, but they often have good sales on name brands as well. The Whales cheese snacks are just as good as regular Goldfish as half the price. Look at their nuts as well, which are half the price of Planter's.

O.K., enough with my DG obsession.  I hope you get some of these deals and make DG a place you look from now on for great savings every day.
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Bits and Pieces: Save Money with Soup and Broth Bags

I'm going to update this article as the first in a new category: Bits and Pieces. In these articles we'll explore ways to use leftover bits and pieces of this and that to save money. Winter is coming and we're all looking forward to healthy and hearty soups, so that's where we'll start.

What Is a Soup Bag?

When I was little, my mother had a bowl in the freezer. Plastics weren't big back then, but as soon as freezer-safe plastics came out, she used one of those, and then zipper freezer bags. Anyway, into this bag went every scrap of vegetables that were left over on our plates, along with leftovers that were not enough to feed all six family members. When it was full, it went into a pot with meat (we never had leftover meat), a ham hock or a couple of soup bones and became a meal.

Benefits of a Soup Bag

I started keeping a soup bowl/container/bag a long time ago. I go one step further and keep broth from boiled veggies and chicken as stock for the soup. It cuts down on waste and makes from some interesting vegetable soups, with a wide variety of veggies I wouldn't normally include in one made from scratch.

I like to add barley or brown rice to the soup too, but sometimes I just make it plain and make a pot of rice to add to individual servings. After all, you don't always want grains in your soup. You can add pasta if that is your preference, and it also stretches it quite a bit. Since there are so many different veggies in the soup -- even salad veggies sometimes (yes, you can cook lettuce -- it won't hurt you), it makes it extremely nutritional. The veggies stock water contains all the nutrients cooked out of the veggies it was used for, so you aren't tossing away vitamins and minerals. 

The Best Way to Start a Soup Bag

I like to start my soup bag by cooking a large pot of beans. I usually eat on them for a few days, but you get tired of beans, so I plop the rest of them into the new soup bag. If you have a family that never leaves anything on their plate, and you never have leftover, you can simply scoop out a soup ladle full of whatever you are cooking, cool it and add it to the bag before it hits the table. They won't starve for the lack of that little bit of whatever the dish is, and you'll have what you need for your soup.

Some people like to add the broth to the soup bag, and that works if you use a very large plastic container and don't put in more broth than veggies. Just remember that liquid expands when it freezes, so leave space at the top enough to accomodate that. This method is helpful in that you can just plop the whole thing into a pot, put it on low heat, and when it defrosts, it's done.

Living alone, I find it takes about a month to build a soup bag, but if you have a large family, it could definitely take less time. Cook up a nice cornbread to go with it, and you have a great meal that is already paid for!

The Broth or Stock Bag

Broth differs from stock only in that broth is seasoned and stock is not, so this can be used for both. If you want broth, simply season your stock to taste while cooking.

Bone broth has become popular now, and that's a great thing for your health and for saving money. You can either save your bones separately or you can put them in with the veggies in the broth bag. What goes into the broth bag? All those things you normally toss away or put into your compost pile:

  • tops and bottoms of carrots, celery and squash
  • potato peels and eyes
  • any kind of veggie peel
  • carrot greens (if you buy them with the tops)\
  • mushroom stems
  • onion and shallot skins
  • herb stems and leaves
  • and whatever else you cut off of your veggies and herbs while you're cooking. Don't included yellow or diseased bits for obvious health reasons.
You can also add bits and pieces of cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, kale, collards, mustard, cabbage, etc., but they can make a broth bitter, so it's best to keep them in their own bag and add in small amounts.

When you have enough in your broth bag, you simply put it into a pot of water enough to cover the bits and bring to a boil, turn it down to low and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes.

Storing Your Broth or Stock

I have a sort of labor-intensive way of storing broth that you may not want to bother with, but it does save space. I pour my broth into ice cube trays and let them get just frozen to the slush stage. I then put the slush into freezer bags, flatten them out and stack them in the freezer. If you only have your refrigerator freezer, this saves a lot of space.

Don't forget to mark your containers with the name and date so you'll know what you have and when to use it. I like to use freezer tape for plastic containers and since I reuse zipper bags, I also use it to cover the former names on those.

How do you use bits and pieces of food to save money in the kitchen? Share your frugal tips in the comments.
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Save Money on Food: Reduce Spoilage


I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to this blog, but I am in the midst of trying to make enough money to move in May, so I'm pretty slogged down with paying work right now. Plus, I am on a medication protocol that requires me to eat lots of fat for two meals a day, so my shopping hasn't been normal. I'm still trying to save money, but I'm also buying a lot of things at full price because they are high fat, so nothing much to report.

When I get busy, I shop but I tend to lose track of what is in the refrigerator, and food spoils. Since I am on such a limited food budget, this is definitely not a good thing. Just last week, I had to throw out a whole quart of strawberries that had grown fur, and that was $2.50 out of my budget.

Yesterday, I made a vegetable soup and ended up having to cut off a lot of some nearly rotten celery and carrots. I'm cleaning out the refrigerator today to make sure nothing else goes to waste.

One of my problems is that I don't have a car, so I have to shop when I have transportation. I end up buying too much, then losing track of it, since I don't make menus and don't cook much. I recently got a bicycle -- a gift from a very kind neighbor -- so now that it has warmed up quite a bit, I'm going to try to make frequent trips to the grocery store instead of just one a week. That way, my produce won't go bad.

These are the steps I'm going to take to keep my food from spoiling. I hope they help someone else.

  1. Don't buy perishable fresh food I'm not going to eat within the next 3-5 days. Some vegetables keep longer than others like hard-shelled squash and sweet potatoes, but for very perishable things (like said strawberries), I am not going to even buy them unless I have a pretty quick plan to use them.
  2. Make more frequent trips to the grocery store. This will be easier with my bicycle, and even easier once I get to Gainesville, where there is a good bus line close to the house. Food is more nutritious when it is fresher anyway. I sometimes wonder if there is any use in buying apples, since I read that the ones in the stores are actually last year's crop. Applesauce or dried apples may be a better choice.
  3. Ask myself: Do I need this? Just because a food item is on sale doesn't mean you have to buy it. I'm a sucker for BOGOs, so there are some times I have actually walked around the store putting impulse items back on the shelf.
  4. Ask myself: Will I really eat all of this? This is a good thing to ask yourself if you're tempted to stock up on BOGOs or buy in bulk. For example, I bought a lot of peanuts on sale for my high-fat diet and now I'm sick of peanuts. Luckily, dried peanuts last a long time, but I bought so many because they were on sale, and that money could have been better spent. Same goes for the two huge 1-lb chunks of cheese and two loaves of bread I bought for the same diet. I don't know why I thought I could eat grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese toast every day, but I'm regretting those purchases too.
  5. Ask myself: Do I have room to store this? I'm completely out of freezer and shelf space now, since I don't have much in this shared kitchen. I will have just as little in my new place, since it will be so small, so I really need to assess my space before I buy things. Once, I thought there was space in the big freezer here, but since I had looked, my roommate had filled it up. I bought a lot of frozen food, and had a really hard time trying to find freezer space for it. As for dried goods, I had to buy some crates to put in my room to store some of my dried goods.

I'm going to clear out the fridge today, and in the future, I'll be more particular about what I buy. It's not a bargain if you throw it away, now is it?
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Buying Fruit in Season: California Navel Oranges are In!

By Brandizzi CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
I live in FL, so navel oranges are nothing new to me, but our navels don't hold a candle to California navels. California navel season is pretty short -- about a month -- so I savor them while I can get them. Last week they were $.99 a lb. at Publix, and I wish I had bought more, but I only got 5. This week, they had gone up to $1.29 so I got 4, but I may go back and get more. I love how easy they are to peel, and speaking of peels, I actually love eating the peels of these yummy oranges, which is actually very healthy. According to Oprah.com
The peel contains more than four times as much fiber as the fruit inside, and more tangeretin and nobiletin—flavonoids with anticancer, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2004 study on animals suggests that these nutrients may even reduce harmful LDL cholesterol better than some prescription drugs.

How to eat it: Grate and sprinkle zest on green beans or asparagus. For dessert, simmer strips in simple syrup and cover in melted dark chocolate.
I also sometimes make them into orange rind candy, which is so yummy you can't believe it!

I am a big believer of eating fruits in season, not just because they are cheaper, but because they are healthier. They don't have to be shipped thousands of miles to get to you (well, the California navels do, but I make exceptions for them), so they retain more of their nutrients. Here in FL, we have so many wonderful tropical fruits that are much cheaper than in other parts of the country, and many of them are easy to grow as well.

While many of you are under inches or feet of snow, I know it's hard to think about fresh fruit, but make a plan for summer. Find out what fruits are in season at what times in your area, and try some you've never tried before. And don't forget frozen fruit! Frozen food is actually more nutritious than fresh food, because it is packed so quickly after it is harvested, so try some frozen fruit this winter.

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Saving Money on Food: January 2014 - Part 2

Today I went to Publix to snag some good BOGOS and to get my raincheck items from my last visit.

I only got a few things from Publix last week, and I went on Wednesday night, so a lot of things were almost out, so I got two rainchecks.

My rain checks were:
4 bottles of V8 Fusion BOGO at $3.69, so $1.85 each. Got 2 last week.
6 bags of Publix brand veggie steamers @$1 each. Original price from $1.39 to $1.99 ea. Got 2 last week.

BOGOS for the week:

2 Chex Trail Mix BOGO at $2.45 (Hey, a girl's gotta have SOME vices)
2 Cheerios BOGO at $3.59
2 Ritz Crackers BOGO at $2.99
2 Green Giant Steamer Veggie Combos (make a great, quick meal) BOGO @$2.59
2 Vlasic Pickles BOGO @$2.85
Gorton's Fish Sticks/Filets BOGO @$6.49 (For my cheat days)


California navel oranges $.99/lb
Fuji and Granny Smith apples $1.99 a lb. (I know that's not very cheap, but it would have cost me more in gas to go buy them cheaper elsewhere, so still a bargain)
Florida Strawberries $2.99 Qt. (this is our strawberry season. It peaks in Feb., so they will be even cheaper then)
Almond Breeze almond milk $2.50 (special 2/$5), which was cheaper than regular milk this week

My total bill was $50.28 and my savings was $25.09 on the weekly specials, a total of $36.21 with the rain checks, so I think I did well. I only buy specials and BOGOs at Publix,  because they are generally so expensive, but if you shop wisely, you can save some money there.

Next shopping trip, I will be stocking up on dried beans and peas, because I'm completely out. My roommate has tons of them, and she says I can use some. I've been waiting for them to go on sale, but they hardly ever do.
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Save Money on Food: January 2014 Part 1

I went shopping yesterday. I didn't really need a lot. Like I said, I don't eat like normal people, plus I'm trying to cut back on calories. I did manage to get some very good buys at my favorite store, SavALot.

Bargain of the Week: Tomatoes!

SavALot had tomatoes on sale for $.99 a pound. I only got one, because I honestly don't eat that many tomatoes, and Publix also has the same price this week, so I can get some later. I enjoy tomato sandwiches from time to time, which is the only reason I grow tomatoes. They also had pint shells of grape tomatoes for $.99 each, which is a HUGE savings over Publix at $2.49 a pint. I love snacking on grape tomatoes, so that was an excellent buy. I may go back and get more later in the week, because these will not last long. I had also gone by Wal-Mart earlier to get distilled water, and picked up a few things. I find a lot of things are not actually cheaper there, so I limit what I buy.

This Week's Savings


Distilled Water: 64 cents/gal  Publix price $1.29 Savings of $3.90 on 6
Progresso soups: 2 @1.48  Publix price $1.99 Savings of $1.02
2 lb. brown rice: 2 @1.44 each  Publix price $1.79  Wavings of $.70
Bartlett Pears: $1.27/lb. Publix price $1.99/lb.
Pink Lady Apples: $1.67/lb.  Publix price $2.69/lb.
Baby Carrots 2 lbs. @ 2.68  Publix Price $3.18
Watermelon: $5.98  Publix Price -- they don't have whole ones right now, but they are usually around $8 each. Two halves would have been around $9.


3 lb. bag of medium red grapefuit: 2/$1.99 ea.  Publix sale price $2.50 ea.
Cabbage: $.69 a lb.  Publix price $.79 a lb.
Dozen Large Eggs: $1.49  Publix Price $1.89
Grape Tomatoes: 2 @ .99/pint  Publix price: $2.49 ea.
Mangoes: 4 @2/$1.00  Publix price $1.49 each (Publix mangoes were larger, but still a huge savings)
Store-brand Salsa: $1.69  Publix price $1.99 (The Publix brand is a little chunkier, but taste is no different)
Cucumbers: 2 @ 2/$1.00  Publix price $.79 each (Publix cukes were smaller)
Whipped Topping:  $.99  Publix brand $1.49

I see that Publix has a sale on Folger's coffee this week for $6.99, and normally, I would buy it, but I found that the Dollar General brand is just as good and is only $5.99, so I will get it there.

There are not a lot of specials at Publix this week that I'm interested in, but I will get the following:

Baby portabello mushrooms: $1.79/pint ($.80 savings and I love them!)
Juicy Juice: 3/$6, which may not be cheaper even than the Dollar General brand. I'll check
Steam-in-bag veggies: $1 each (maybe, maybe not. Depends on if they are plain or have a lot of chemicals in them)

Other Publix Specials

Publix has Arnold's bread on bogo, but I don't eat a lot of bread, so that's not a good buy for me. I love their Mountain Bread, so I consider that one of my splurge items, since one loaf lasts me almost a month.

They also have Pepperidge farm cinnamon swirl bread on BOGO, and I love the raisin bread, but don't have room to store a whole loaf right now, so not a good buy. Plus, having to buy a lot of fresh veggies now, I'm not doing but a couple of splurge items.

Dawn dishwashing liquid is 2/$5, so I may get one of those, if it's the original and not one of the watered down new types.  Otherwise, it's cheaper at Dollar General.

If you eat a lot of processed food, Publix has some good buys, but if you are on a tight budget and eat more fresh foods (like being on food stamps), stores like SavALot are still going to save your a lot more overall. Not a lot of brand names at SavALot, but I've been shopping there for over 15 years, and with few exceptions, their brands are just as good as the name brands for much less.

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The Gift of Food is Perfect for Inexpensive Christmas Gifts

I love jars, so I was looking at jars on Pinterest and found a site I just have to share. It brought to mind the Christmas when I was 25, on food stamps, and flat broke. I made cookies for everyone  that year, because it was the cheapest thing I could do. My Christmas cookies became a tradition in our family, and it saved me a ton of money.

Then I started canning and every year, I would gather baby food jars from my mommy friends and fill them with all sorts of awesome stuff. Of course, everyone got a tiny jar of my special jam or jellies. But toddler food jars held other things: hair clips for little girls, marbles for little boys, scrunchies for my pals with long hair, etc. I would dress up the tops and put a nice ribbon around them with a tag. Everyone loved my baby food jar gifts!

Anyway, I found this on Buzzfeed with some ideas for jarred food gifts, and thought it might help some of you out. Enjoy!

24 Delicious Food Gifts That Will Make Everyone Love You

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Be Careful Shopping Online: WalMart vs eBay

I want to make some candles, or rather, remake some cheap candles I picked up at a thrift store into other scented candles. I make my own wicks, which isn't that hard. They are made with cotton kitchen twine (any kind of cotton twine will do, but I like the kitchen twine). I usually buy mine on Amazon, but when they raised their minimum purchase to $35, I virtually stopped shopping there. It's so easy to find items at comparable prices with free shipping on eBay,  I usually just buy there now.

So I found the kitchen twine on eBay for $4.43 for 220 feet, which lasts me a very long time. I really didn't want to wait for delivery, though, so I thought I'd look to see if WalMart had any in the store. Nope, but they do have THE EXACT SAME NorPro twine for $9.55. GEEZ! That is more than TWICE what they want on eBay, but WAIT -- there is MORE! To have it shipped to you, it's an additional $6.99! WOW!

So let's compare prices - eBay $4.43 with free shipping or WalMart $16.54 with shipping. Which one do you think I chose?

The lesson here is that you have to careful and compare prices online. Don't assume WalMart always has lower prices, because it's not true. Many of the items sold in their online site don't even come from them. This twine is shipped direct from the manufacturer, which is where? Could be China for all we know. The eBay twine comes from Washington state, which may take a few days to get here, but for that kind of savings, I'll take it.

Amazon has gone mad with their $35 minimum and saying they are planning delivery by drones (what has Jeff Bezos been smoking?). Selling on eBay may be insane, and fees are off the wall, but I find that more times than not as a buyer, I get a decent product at a decent price, free shipping and it is delivered pretty quickly through eBay. I used to hate eBay, and would not order from them, but after a few pleasant experiences, I now look there first.

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Deb's Frugal Living is Getting a New Look!

I've been working hard on a new template for the blog; updated, simpler and more user-friendly. The blog will be offline for awhile Tuesday while I change it over. You're going to love it!

Thank you for your support. We appreciate it more than you can know.

The Two Debs
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A Bit of a Delay on the Food Stamp Challenge

I thought I got my food stamps on the 1st, but they actually aren't reloaded until the 8th, so I will start the challenge then. It's a good thing I have some cash on hand, because I only have $3 left from last month, and I need a few things. I do have enough meat and veggies to last me those six days, but I won't be pigging out anytime soon.

I'm craving sweets, so I'm probably going to be making some cookies. I make a lot of my own snacks, like cheese sticks and cookies, because it is so much cheaper than buying them and there are fewer horrible chemical preservatives in them. I also use jello as a snack, because it's cheap, and jello jigglers are almost just like gummy bears.

I'll share some of my cookie and snack recipes with you so you can try them too. I used to make hundreds of cookies to give away for Christmas, but I have no one to give them to anymore, so don't do that now. Plus, my sons are so far away, it costs too much to mail them.

The good thing about the card getting reloaded later is that I will be able to use up some of what I have, so I can start with a near-clean slate where food is concerned, and show you exactly what I can buy and how long it lasts.

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Couponing 101: Learning the Coupon Lingo

When you are starting to coupon it can be very helpful to learn the lingo or jargon of the couponing world. There are many sites and communities on the web for couponers and newbies to couponing can confused and overwhelmed with all the abbreviations and terms used by seasoned couponers. Since I have been couponing for 15 years now all of these abbreviations and such are like a second language to me. If I told you, “I went shopping at Wags this weekend and rolled my RR and used a peelie from a product and it became a MM!”, you might be lost and just give me a crazy look. So to help you be able to understand all of these strange abbreviations and terms here is a list of common ones you will find in the couponing world.
  • Blinkies....... those are the coupons you see in the little machines at the stores. (yeah the ones that the kids go around and grab 4 of each while you are shopping) that automatically distribute coupons. Some machines have blinking lights on them, hence the name “blinkies” 
  • BOGO/B1G1......stands for buy one get one...could be buy one get one free or buy one get one 50% off, etc. 
  • Cats....no not the animals. Those are the coupons that print up at the cash register. The machine that prints the coupons is called a Catalina machine, so naturally we shortened it to cats. 
  • DND....Stands for Do Not Double. You might see these on coupons, but some stores will double them anyways. 
  • Doubling....means the value of the coupon will double. Like a 50 cents coupon would double and you would get a total of a dollar off of the product/s on the coupon. 
  • ECB....Extra Care Bucks. Earned at CVS when you buy certain products and used as store “cash.” 
  • EQ...electronic coupon, usually ones that you download onto your store's loyalty cards. Also known as digital coupons. 
  • ETS....excludes trial/ travel size. Means that the coupon can not be used on trial or travel size products. 
  • FARR....Free after Register Rewards (earned at Walgreen’s). You basically get the item for free. Like an item costs $4.50 and when you pay for it at the register you get a $4.50 Register Reward back to use on your next shopping trip. 
  • IP....Internet Printed coupons. Coupons that you print from the internet. 
  • MM...Money maker. Meaning that a deal that gains you money after the coupon/rebate offered. 
  • MQ...Manufacturer's coupon. Those are the coupons that are put out by the manufacturers. The coupon will usually have it stated on it if it is an manufacturer's coupon or store coupon. 
  • NED...No expiration date. The coupon/ deal does not have an expiration date. 
  • OAS....On Any Size, the coupon is good on any size of the product. 
  • OOP...Out of Pocket. How much you paid out of your pocket after all coupons, gift cards, etc. used. 
  • OYNO....On Your Next Order. Cats that print out stating “Save $2 off of your next shopping trip.” Usually earned when you buy a certain amount of items in one transaction. These are like coupon gold because you can use them on things like produce and meat! 
  • P&G...P&G Brandsaver coupon insert. Usually comes out the beginning of each month in the Sunday paper. 
  • Peelies...Coupons that are attached to the product. You have to peel it off of the product to use the coupon. 
  • POP...proof of purchase. The thing that the cashier scans to ring up your item. Usually needed for rebates. 
  • Q...coupon. 
  • RP....Red Plum, a coupon insert that comes in the Sunday paper...or some get it in the mail during the week. 
  • Rolling....buying one item with a RR or ECB to earn more RR or ECB. 
  • SQ....Store coupon. A coupon that is put out by the store. 
  • SS...Smart Source, a coupon insert found in the Sunday paper. 
  • Stacking....being able to use a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon on one product to get even more savings. Can be done at Target and Walgreen’s. 
  • TP....Tear pad. Usually a tear pad has coupons or a rebate that is found on the store shelves or display in the store with or near the product. 
  • Wine tags/ Hang tags....coupons that hang around the neck of a bottle/ top of a product. 
  • YMMV....Your Mileage Might Vary. Means what happens at that store might not be the same as the results in your area.
With the aid of this list, you can now be able to understand more of what is being said by the seasoned couponers. Good luck and happy couponing!

About the Author:
Kelli Ward is a married busy mom of 4, a nurse, and a loves to save money with coupons and bargain shopping! She has been using coupons for over 15 years and is sharing her couponing and money saving knowledge on her site, Savings Express.

Image Credit: Julie & Heidi from West Linn & Gillette, USA CC-BY-SA-2.0  via Wikimedia Commons
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December, 2013 Food Stamp Challenge

Photo Credit: Gracey at Morguefile.com
Unhappily, I am back on food stamps. I was trying not to do it, but after several weeks of only having $25 a week for food, and getting sicker and sicker from eating poorly, I had to bite the bullet and apply.

I am single, and qualify for the full amount of $189 a month. Believe it or not, some months when I had $200 a month, I would end up with a surplus at the end of the month. I don't eat like normal people; I'm a grazer. I prefer raw fruits and veggies to cooked food and I don't eat much meat. So this food stamp challenge isn't going to be about what I eat and building menus as much as it's going to be about getting the most for your food stamp dollars.

I'm not much of a couponer, but I'm going to do as much couponing as I can this month, to show you a few tricks the pros use. I'm trying to find a coupon diva to make a few guest posts to help us out.

I'm also doing a fitness and weight loss challenge on Deb's Health and Fitness, so it will be about eating as healthy as possible while losing weight and exercising.

I feel like the reason most people say $189 a month isn't enough for one person is because of the way they eat and how much they eat. Let's face it, obesity is a health epidemic in this country, so we could all stand to eat a little less. I surely could, and that' is why I want to include the fitness into this challenge. Having your food budget cut drastically could be the best thing that ever happened to you if it forces you to eat less. Add a few minutes of exercise to that, and you can actually regain your health.

So that is what this challenge is about. It's first and foremost about teaching you how to stretch your food stamp budget. Then it's about taking this opportunity to cut back on the calories you consume so you can get thinner and healthier.

Christmas is coming up, so there will be a little about how to use your food stamps to give Christmas gifts without doing without food yourself. Believe it or not, it's not that difficult. I've done it for years, and my food gifts are the ones everyone looks forward to the most.

I know having your food budget cut in half is scary, but at the end of this challenge, you will discover you are smarter, thriftier and healthier than ever, and that's something to be proud of!

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Stretching Your Food Stamp Dollars: Why Food Stamp Challenges Aren't Realistic


I've seen so many of these so-called "food stamp challenge" posts, where well-to-do people try to eat on $30 a week. They always try to buy the things they are used to buying, and find out that isn't feasible. That's not even realistic.

I recently had to break down and go back on food stamps. I get the maximum $189 a month, which was $200 before the latest cuts. So I'm going to do a REAL food stamp challenge next month, and show you EXACTLY how I spend my food stamp dollars, what I do to supplement, and how it all works out. My purpose in doing this is not to shame anyone, but to hopefully help teach anyone with a small food budget how to stretch it to the max.

First, a few facts about why these $30 a week challenges aren't realistic.

  1. We don't get $30 a week - we get our entire allotment at the beginning of the month. That allows us to plan for sales and stockpile clearance and BOGO items.
  2. We don't eat the crazy stuff people on these challenges eat. Well, maybe we do if we can find it on deep discount, like the meat at Sav-a-Lot that is marked down an additional $1 or $2, but no way are we paying $4.99 a lb. for fresh boneless chicken breasts at Publix when we can get them for $2.99 frozen somewhere else. Even then, we usually don't buy those either. We usually buy the leg quarters in 10-lb. packages for around $.69 cents a pound, or even less on sale. 
  3. Yes, we splurge occasionally on something like a steak or roast, but if you look closely, you'll see that we ONLY buy these things on sale, and trust me, when we get through with that steak, it's made into 2 or 3 meals. When we do splurge, we do it consciously, because we know we will be eating beans and rice a few days to make up for it.
  4. We use coupons...a lot! We know all the coupon tricks, like how to stack store coupons and manufacturer coupons, or use coupons on BOGO's to save even more. 
  5. We know how to put together a cheap, complete protein. Did you know that brown rice and succotash with butter and flavorings is a complete protein that is also one serving of grains and two servings of vegetables with a little dairy thrown in? Well, now you do, and this is how we eat. 
  6. We grow our own food, when and where we can. I happen to be fortunate enough to live in a house with a yard where I can plant a garden. Actually, I haven't planted a garden yet, but I will be, and I'll be reporting on that too, and what the dollar value of that produce would be at supermarket prices. I'll also be reporting on growing veggies in containers for those of you who don't have a yard. 
There's a lot more, but I won't go into it right now. Just subscribe to Simply Deb and read all our posts on how to stretch your food dollars to the max, and what a REAL food stamp challenge looks like.

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Holding On and Letting Go


I've been thinking about this lately, because I have definitely fallen a long way from having a full-time job, a car, and owning a house. I live in a place I want desperately to leave, and can't seem to get out of it. Something always seems to hold me back. Well, I've decided that what is holding me back is ME.

Sometimes frugality is not enough. Sometimes you just have to do that capitalistic thing and WORK HARDER to get what you need. Not what you want, what you NEED. I need to move. I need my own place. Making excuses is not going to get me there.

Not only do I have to work harder, but I have to LET GO of all these things I think are essential to my life. I go through boxes over and over and somehow I believe I need all this stuff for when I get my own place again. I don't. I need about 10% of it. I need my mattresses, my clothes, my kitchen stuff, and the things that are dear to me that I can't replace. That's it. I don't NEED any of the rest of it. I don't even need all the kitchen stuff. I have way too much bakeware, truly I do. I used to bake a lot, but I haven't done that for years, so why am I hanging on to that stuff?

Then there are my family antiques. I need those. They are all I have left of the people in my family who truly loved me. But that is 3 pieces of furniture. Every other piece of furniture I have can go. I can replace it all later. Right now, what I NEED is to move, and hanging on to sentimental things is just not feasible.

I have been acting on the assumption that things will get better, that I will eventually be able to make enough money to move where I want to. That isn't going to happen. I need to downscale that dream even further, and just face the fact that my life is never going to be the same as it was, and I am too old to live in misery, trapped in one 200sf space in a house where I can't even use the other rooms in peace. I don't mind living in the 200sf, I mind feeling trapped here. But this is a cage of my own making.

So I need to WORK HARDER. Sometimes, you just have to do that. I worked my tail off and exhausted myself getting the money for my son's wedding. I can surely do that for myself, right?

Stop waiting for someone or something to pull your ass out of the fire and JUST DO IT.  And be willling to LET GO of what isn't necessary to your life.
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Good to the Last Drop


You know how frustrating it is when manufacturers put our favorite foodstuffs in jars of oddly shaped proportions which prevent all that yummy (eww, I don't think I like that word!) goodness dwindling on the sides and bottom? 

It has become my mission in life, over the years, to get every single, solitary drop of whatever is in that container OUT of that container! It peeves me to no end how much waste is created by ineffective design. I mean, just look at that jar above...there's probably a good 1-2 more tablespoons of product still in there. How can you just throw that away?  Maybe I'm old fashioned. Learned a lot from watching my grandmas do their thing in the kitchen. I don't know. What I DO know, however, is that I'm going to share with you two simple tricks for getting ALL your money's worth out of the foods you buy!  

Size DOES Matter!

Get yourself some mini spatulas. I promise you this is one of the BEST inventions ever. Normal-sized spatulas just cannot get into those tiny spaces. These babies will clean out a jar of jam or the bottom of the peanut butter jar with the greatest of ease. For example: I can get two more PB sandwiches (PB on both slices) just from the scrapings!

Just Add Water (or Other Liquid)

When you get down to the last particles of sauce, paste or other condiment-type products, the best way to clean it out is to add a touch of water, broth or milk. Even soy or almond milk will do the trick. It's just the medium you will use to thin out the remaining contents so they will exit the container in an orderly fashion. This works great for ketchup, mustard, alfredo and marinara sauces. Water makes quick work of removing beans, peas and other veggies from cans...just fill the can 1/2 full, swirl it around and pour it into the pan with the rest of the veggies. 

Credit: Ilivhealthy

That's it. Easy as frozen pie! If you don't already do this, you will be shocked at how much more you'll get by scraping the bottom of the jar-barrel!  Save yourself some cash and try it!  

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Stretching Your Food Dollars with Ice Cube Trays

Ever buy some random food item for a recipe and have a ton left over that just goes to waste once you put it in the fridge? I have. Time and time again. Then, after seeing someone grind up fresh herbs and make cubes out of them, the lightbulb went off!  It makes no sense to spend $2 to $4 on a container of a fancy sauce just to use a few tablespoons of it. Might as well go buy truffles or saffron threads!

Whether it's a commercial Mole sauce (like this one), pesto, broth, stock or even fresh herbs, those old ice cube trays collecting dust in the cupboard are there for a reason: to save you MONEY! 

Just fill each cube with the item of your choice, freeze it, then remove the cubes and seal them in an airtight container or a plastic baggie. I double bag mine, just to keep them longer in the freezer. When you freeze sauces or pesto, just take a cube or three out, and let them thaw in a bowl before use. You can use broth cubes straight from the freezer to the skillet, because they melt down within a minute once they hit that heat. 

I do recommend reserving these trays ONLY for food storage. Don't try to make ice afterward, or your iced tea is going to have a particularly funky twang to it! Frozen cubes last up to 6 months in the freezer, depending on how you store them. 

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Stretch Your Food Stamp Dollars and Grow Your Own Food

November 1st marked the beginning of nationwide cuts in food stamp benefits. If you are one of over 47 million affected by these cuts, now is the time to start finding new ways to stretch those dollars even further. There is no point in waiting on the boys and girls of the Beltway to figure out whether you deserve help or not. Help yourself! One way you can stretch your food stamp dollars and increase your food supply is to start growing. Yes, that’s right. Grow your own food!

There are many vegetables you can grow, even without a garden plot and even during the winter, which is fast approaching here in the northern states! Herbs, cucumbers, lettuces, peppers of all shapes and sizes and tomatoes are just a few of the veggies that lend well to indoor container planting. Here are the things you’ll need to start growing your own food indoors this winter:
  •  Containers (planting containers, at least 12” to 16” in circumference)
  •  Potting soil (store brands work just as well as brand-name varieties)
  •  Seeds or starter plants (which may be nearly impossible to find locally this time of year)
Contain Yourself

Containers don’t have to be fancy, in fact they don’t even have to LOOK like your typical pot. They just have to be able to hold soil and have some holes at the bottom for good drainage. Two-liter bottles and milk jug or cartons, cut in half, make excellent planting containers. You can also check out garage sales, flea markets, swap meets or local trade paper for cheap or even free containers.

Playing in the Dirt

Potting soil. I’m sure there’s lots of controversy out there about the “best” potting soils. All I can tell you, from personal experience, is that I've used brand name and generic soils with much the same success. Right about now, you might be able to find it really cheap at local garden stores or check out bargain stores, like Dollar General, Family Dollar, Big Lots or whatever discount stores populate your area. Most potting soils have added nutrients already so you won’t have to mess around with adding plant foods or fertilizers right away. Bonus, right? 

Sowing the Seeds

Seeds and plants, according to the USDA, are eligble items under the SNAP program. You may still be able to find them in local big box stores (Meijer, Kroger, Wal Mart, etc. ). They might be tucked away in a clearance aisle. However, if you can’t find them in a store that takes food stamps, there are resources for finding free seeds. Seed exchanges, locally or online, local cooperative extension agencies and gardening clubs are good places to contact about getting seeds.

So, now is the time to start hunting down the things you’ll need to start your indoor food supply. I know this latest cut in food stamp benefits is going to be rough, but I also know that necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. Inventing (well, re-inventing) your own food supply will help you keep calm, carry on and eat better in the long run!  

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Huge Score Day at Goodwill Bargain Barn

I absolutely love Goodwill Bargain Barn.  Our local one isn't as good as it was before they moved it from Englewood to North Port, but you can still get plenty of great scores there. The one thing I don't like about this one is that there used to be a table just for linens, and now there isn't. I got lots of great sheets, blankets and more there, and was counting on doing that again, but there just aren't any, so I'll have to count on the regular thrift stores for those. But with clothes for $1.69 a pound and shoes at $1.99 each, you can't lose.

I've gotten some great scores there. It's the absolute best place to get plastic baskets, which I can pick up for $.10 to .25 each, depending on who's checking you out. I'm always looking for stuff to help organize my space, and I've previously gotten some neat finds, like stackable trays, plastic drawers, and storage containers. I even got an almost brand-new Black and Decker coffee maker for $3.

Today was one of my best days lately. It was like they knew I was coming, and just put everything I needed out there. I found two stacking trays and two hanging trays to go on the sides, plus another hanging tray for the other stackers I'd found previously. These trays are much taller than the others, so I can fit a nice-sized basket under the bottom tray. My 1-litter water bottles fit under it perfectly. The side trays are where I put all the vitamins and supplements I takeon a regular basis. From what I can see online, these shelves sell for about $10 apiece. I can't find the same small hanging racks online, but from what I can find, they're probably about $5 to $7 each, so I'll say $15 for all three.

Also got an under-the-bed plastic container. One corner is cracked, but that's o.k., I can glue that. I'm going to put that at about $10, because I know they usually sell for $10 to $15.

My favorite find was something I'm using right now, something I've been wanting for awhile. I sit on my bed to write, and while I had a lapboard, it sometimes hurt my legs because it has no padding. Today I not only found a laptop desk with a curved front and beanbag back so I can put it at any angle, but it has a pullout mouse tray on the right and a zip container on the left to stash your cord and mouse. This one sells for about $25 to $30 online. The only drawback I can see is that the mouse tray isn't very sturdy, so I may need to find a way to bolster it a little.

One item I'm THRILLED about was something I've been debating on buying for rmonths ,but didn't want to really spend the money for -- wooden block bed lifters. I really need to get more stuff under my bed, but it's so close to the ground that normal under-the-bed boxes don't fit. Now I will be able to stash more stuff to get it out of the way. These are normally from $20 to $25.

I also got a very nice two-step folding utility ladder that usually sells for about $25. This is going to help me so much, since I plan to put shelves up across the top of the walls to get things off the floor and out of the way.

I love cutting boards, and I can always find great ones at this store. I picked up a small glass board today, which probably retails for about $10. O.K., so I already have two cutting boards, but a girl cannot have too many, especially when she loves to chop things.

Also got some little things, like a macrame plant pot holder, a lounge chair pad I'm going to use as an exercise pad for the floor, some lazy-susan trays, which always come in handy, and seven pieces of clothing, mostly tank tops and short sleeved shirts with one pair of jeans, which I'm going to cut off to make shorts. I figure those are worth another $50

So we have about $160 to $175 worth of stuff for (drum roll, please) .........


I guess if you want to get technical, my time is worth something, but I make about $100 a day before taxes, and I did this in 3 hours, so I figure I earned more than a day's wages in savings in that short time.

So to celebrate, I went over to the regular Goodwill next door and spent $9 on a couple of pairs of shorts.

All in all, a great shopping day -- plus, I got to have an orange scone and coffee at Panera and spend time with a good friend. If you count the $4-something I spent buying her coffee and scone, I had a wonderful day for about $40 doing what I love to do.

Want to hear something even stranger? That Goodwill is built in what used to be the first Publix I ever worked in. 
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My Favorite Texas Caviar Recipe

We southerners love our black-eyed peas, beans and corn, but sometimes we need to dress 'em up a little with a few extra ingredients. When we have a party going on, we like to make something called Texas Caviar. 

You'll find a dozen or more recipes for Texas Caviar online, but this is my favorite. Being single, I hardly ever make this unless I have someone to share it with, but I have been known to make it and eat on it for days.

It's a great afternoon snack for kids -- healthy and will keep them filled up for hours. This is something you won't feel guilty about them sneaking into the fridge for, and it's absolutely great for play dates when they get hungry. A couple of quart mason jars full of this with a large bag of chips makes a good hostess gift for a tailgating party too.


2 cans black-eyed peas, washed and well-drained
1 can black beans, washed and well-drained
1 can white shoepeg corn, drained
1 can yellow corn, drained
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained or 2 cups fresh diced tomatoes
1 small green bell pepper, 1/2 each small red and yellow bell peppers, chopped (Optional - just for color, but if you leave this out, use a large green bell pepper)
1 medium purple onion, chopped (Just for color - can substitute any onion)
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (Optional. I replace this with sweet banana peppers or a tablespoon of crushed red pepper)
8 ozs. Zesty Italian Salad Dressing (I use whatever has been on sale lately, but honestly - I like Kraft the best for this recipe because it's thicker and sticks to the ingredients better.)

Chop and mix all ingredients with the Italian dressing, making sure everything is saturated. Leave in the refrigerator overnight for best flavor, but at least for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure to keep everything saturated. Serve with Fritos Scoops or your favorite healthy brand of tortilla or corn chip. You really do need "scoop" chips, though, because this doesn't stay on regular chips too well.

This also makes a wonderful topping for tacos, or put your favorite meat into a tortilla with this and wrap it up.


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Are You Really Broke?


"Broke" is one of those words like "fair" --- it's defined by the person defining it. Truly broke people don't have to define it. They know what it means. Truly being broke is not only financial, it is emotionally and physically draining. It is not knowing if you will be able to pay the rent or keep the electric on. It is feeding your kids and not eating yourself. It is crying yourself to sleep at night because you work your tail off every day and still have nothing to show for it. That's truly broke

So let's look at some of the comments I've seen online lately from people claiming to be "broke" and see if their definition is the same as yours.

"I want those Manolo's, but I'm so broke. Maybe I'll get them with my bonus." You get a bonus? You have a job that pays enough for you to even CONSIDER buying a $600 pair of shoes? You aren't broke. You are fiscally irresponsible.

"I'm a broke single mother of three, and organic food isn't that expensive. If you stop eating out, you can afford it."  You can afford to eat out? Then you aren't broke. Broke people never eat out. They may not eat at all sometimes. They don't even look at organic food, because they can hardly afford fruits and veggies at all.

"Oh God, I'm so broke! I'm not going to be able to go to SXSW this year."  Seriously? You think not having thousands of dollars to spend on a conference is broke? Most really broke people don't even know what SXSW is, much less would they even consider going to it.

"I'm so broke. I'm gonna have to cut back the number of channels I have on my cable and maybe cut my internet speed back too."  You are definitely not broke. Broke people don't have cable and they may not have internet. If they do have internet, they have the cheapest one available, and only have it because they have to have it for work or for their kids.

I know broke. I was so broke for two years I was on food stamps and the $5 phone service that goes with it. The only reason I had a cell phone was because the government gave out free 250 min. a month phones to people on food stamps. I paid $19.95 for my internet, because I begged Verizon not to discontinue my low price or I would have to cancel and have no way to work. At one period in time, I had to go back to dial-up for $5 a month from NetZero to have any internet at all. I stopped coloring my hair because I couldn't afford the $3 a month for the at-home coloring. I stopped wearing makeup because I couldn't afford it. I gained weight from eating processed foods, rice and potatoes because that was the only filling food I could get with my food stamps. I couldn't even afford to take vitamins, but I had a friend who was a nurse in a senior care facility who would bring me the ones that people left behind. I didn't ask if the people had died or just left, because I was grateful for whatever reason I got those vitamins. I was so broke I lost my car, my house and almost everything I owned.

Now let me tell you about a REALLY broke single mom with 3 kids. She lived across the street from me. She worked 2 jobs and couldn't make ends meet because of the high cost of day care and work expenses. I had a friend who owned a produce store, and I would go there in the afternoons and help her out. She would give me her tossaway food -- not good enough to sell, but still viable to eat. I started taking boxes of that food to that single mom. She cried when I showed up with the first box. She had run out of food stamps before the end of the month and didn't have anything but Ramen Noodles to feed her kids. I know that feeling. I've been there. Once I only had $13 to spend on food for the week and I bought macaroni and cheese, hamburger meat, cereal, milk, rice, and canned corn and beans. He ate, I nibbled, then I put my leftovers in the fridge to feed him the next day.

THAT is broke.

If you have a good job, a savings account, a retirement account, can pay your home mortgage or rent easily every month, never have had to beg a utility company to give you 3 more days before they cut your lights or water off, have a car or can afford public transportation, and especially if you wear Manolos, YOU ARE NOT BROKE! STOP WHINING!!!

Oh, and maybe when you get that bonus, instead of buying those Manolos, you could donate that money to a food bank or a homeless shelter or an abused women's service. MAYBE, JUST MAYBE you could stop thinking about yourself for awhile and stop judging everybody else and do something good.

But I doubt you will.
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A Few New Uses for Old Socks

I was reading a post on uses for old socks, and so far, no one has written about some of my favorite uses. Of course, not everyone moves as much as I have lately, but nevertheless, this is a good excuse for not throwing them away.

Use Old Socks for Packing

When I moved, I went to the grocery store and got wine boxes, because they are strong and have partitions. These boxes are especially good for packing glassware and fragile knick-knacks. Still, glassware and fragile things need to be cushioned, and what better than an old sock? Simply slip glasses and fragile items into an old sock (or two) and stick it into said wine box. I have never had one thing that was packed in an old sock break -- never.

Utilitarian Fingerless Gloves

Do your hands get cold when typing in the winter? Mine do, because we're forced by financial circumstances to keep our thermostat rather low. I bought some heavy fingerless gloves, but they were too bulky and they didn't keep my wrists warm enough. Since I work at home, I'm not too concerned about appearances, so I simply snipped some holes in an old cotton sock and slipped it on my hands. VOILA! Just right.

Cheap Pet Toys

Got a cat? Tired of paying for expensive catnip toys (I know I am)? Simply stuff some catnip into the toe of an old sock, tie a knot in it, and toss it on the floor. My cat loves her catnip socks because they are large enough for her to grab and tear at, and they are easy for me to find -- much easier than those tiny little catnip mice which disappear a few minutes after I give them to her. Great part is that you can easily untie the sock, turn it inside out to remove the old catnip once it loses its potency, wash it, and restruff it.

Stuff a sock with other old socks and sew up the end to make a toy for your dog to tear up without spreading filling all over the house.

Keeping Old Socks Separated from New Socks

If you use old socks as cleaning rags and then wash them, you may have a problem separating them from your regular socks, and inadvertently toss them into your sock drawer. Get a colored permanent marker and mark the toes so you can readily see that they are rags.
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Wire Shelving Redo

Photo Credit: Gracey at Morguefile.com
I just read this awesome article that recommends putting self-stick vinyl tiles on wire shelving to keep things from falling over or falling through. They got their tiles for $12 a box. Well, that's all well and good, but I have a cheaper idea.

I have a baker's rack that has very wide wire shelving, as baker's racks are bound to do, because they need air flow for the bread. Well, I don't use mine for bread, so the shelves were a pain. Since I didn't really need the shelves to be "pretty" right away, I just put taped-together cardboard or cereal boxes on them.

Now that's pretty ugly, which is great if your shelves are hidden away somewhere where no one will see them. When I moved my baker's rack into the living room, I wanted them to be a little prettier. The Solution? Contact paper. I can find it for around $1 a roll at the Goodwill Bargain Barn, so with free cardboard boxes from the grocery store, it's possible to create pretty shelves for next to nothing. Even if you have to buy contact paper, it's about $3-$5 a roll, so much cheaper than $12 a box for tiles. PLUS it's easy to take off and wipe down, if you're putting spillable things on it, like I do with my plants. If you stick tiles on a shelf, you have to clean them where they are.

If you just have to have tiles, and you're not in an apartment where you aren't allowed to change anything, go on freecycle and ask for people's leftover vinyl tiles from flooring projects. OR go to a flooring store and ask for remnants of tile from its contractors.

The cardboard and contact paper idea is great for rentals, because you can just leave it for the next tenant, or toss it out when you're done with it. If you like the look of self-stick tiles, stick them to a piece of cardboard so they can be easily removed.

There are a lot of possibilities, so get creative!
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Frugality and Self-Sufficiency - It's Nothing New, People


I'm always amazed at how people think frugality is just some new trend and they are on the cutting edge. Most of these people are younger and have always been financially secure, grew up in middle-class families, and never had to worry about money much. They went to college, got well-paying jobs, bought nice houses and fancy cars -- and then the economy crashed. They lost said well-paying jobs, some lost the nice houses and some even lost the cars. I lost all three, except the job wasn't well-paying and the house wasn't nice and the car wasn't fancy.

The difference between me and them -- I knew IMMEDIATELY what to do. Hell, I had been doing it all along. Couponing, stockpiling, growing food, cooking my own meals and even creating income on the side were not new concepts to me. I didn't even have enough money to budget - ever - so pinching pennies was second nature, just part of my being.

When I lost my job, my pride did not get in the way. The very next day, I applied for SNAP benefits. I luckily had enough food stockpiled so that my savings would support me for about 3 months. I thought I would find another job in that time, but that was mid-2008, and economy was falling down around us all, so that didn't happen. When I didn't get my benefits after 3 months, I called the Lieutenant Governor's office (Never call the governor...you'll never get a reply. The Lt.Governor is much more likely to return your call.) Within 3 days, I got that straightened out. Good thing, because my cupboards were bare by that time.

I had a friend who owned a produce store. I worked out a deal with her that I would come down and help her clean and close up, and she would give me tossaway veggies every day. She also gave me milk and eggs that were about to go out of date, so I was set. When she injured her back, I ran the store for her, which I would have done for free, but she insisted on paying me, so I only allowed her to pay me minimum wage because of everything she had done for me. She not only paid me, but she had a rule that you could take home veggies for your supper every night, which I didn't always do, but it was nice when I wanted it.

I had a neighbor who needed help to go grocery shopping and such, so we went once a week. The rest of the time, I walked the mile up to the closest grocery store for staples to supplement my garden veggies.

And I sold things. I had so many things that I didn't need -- in fact, I was a hoarder -- so I just used them to make money. Before I lost my car, I did yard work for people for $25 an hour. The point is, I did not sit around on unemployment waiting for the economy to get better...I acted.

During those first 3 months, I set up a blog with adsense and started promoting it on Twitter, plus looking for a new source of income. I found freelance writing. It didn't bring in enough income to save me, and I eventually lost everything anyway, but that has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  I now am able to choose where and how I live and can earn as much money as I need with the potential to earn more than 3 times what I earned on my last outside job.

Now, 4 years later, all those people who have lost everything plus their unemployment have come around to the fact that their great lifestyles are gone, and they are now homesteading and blogging about it. Some managed to save their houses, and are now filling their back yards with gardens. They are proud of themselves. I am proud of them too, but I wish they hadn't had to take so long to come around.

Their children, on the other hand, will not be like that. They are growing up learning how to be frugal and self-sufficient, and their generation will be much more secure, because they know that if hard times come, they have the skills to survive. You never know when the bottom is going to fall out of your life. Illness, injury or disaster can happen to anyone.

So even if you still have that good job, nice house and fancy car -- plant a garden, use coupons, learn to use public transportation. Live like you make minimum wage and sock the rest of that money away for a rainy day...just in case. You won't be sorry you did when it starts to rain.

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Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker Giveaway


This is a great opportunity for anyone who is a crockpot addict (lke my roommate). I know I'm always looking for easier ways to cook, and this cooker is awesome! It had features I've never seen in a slow cooker.

PLUS, you should really follow this blog. It has so many slow cooker recipes and tips, you'll never need to go anywhere else. It also has coupons, free e-cookbooks and giveaways. What more could you want? Check it out. You'll be happy you did.

HURRY! The contest entry period ends January 5, 2013!

All Free Slow Cooker Recipes Hamilton Beach Giveaway
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Price Trickery or Why You Should Not Assume Smaller Sizes are More Expensive

Last week I went to a local grocery store I had been wanting to go to forever. It's a great place, much like the neighborhood groceries of my childhood. The front of the store was loaded with plants and flowers and the inside had gorgeous, fresh produce (not all that expensive, either) and what I was looking for...bulk products. I was also looking for coconut oil, having run out a day or so before, and not wanting to order through Amazon and pay outrageous shipping prices. I found the coconut oil - Nutiva, my favorite brand -- in several sizes. I picked up the 29 oz. size and saw that it was $23 and some pennies. I didn't really want to spend that much, so I picked up the 15 oz. size and saw that it was $8.55. "Now wait a minute," my brain said. "2 x 15 = 30 and 2 x $8.55 = $17.10, which is over $6 less than the 29 oz. size."

See, you would assume that the prices would be at least a little closer, and that the two 15 oz. sizes would be slightly more expensive than the 29 oz. size. I'll be a lot of people get screwed out of that $6+ because they don't bother to look.

Unfortunately, I've found this to be true of a lot of grocery store items. Start checking, I'm sure you will too. A simple way to figure this out is to look at the price per oz. on the shelf tag. A customer of mine taught me that trick, and it does work. Something may look like a better buy, but when you look at the price per oz., it really isn't. This works really well with sale items. It may look like that store brand is a better buy, but when you look, it is actually smaller and costs more per oz. This is just some retail trickery the stores use to get you to buy their brand, on which they make a greater profit. It can also work in the opposite way. For example, I was looking at a BOGO item the other day, and when I divided the price per oz. by two and compared it to the generic brand, the generic was cheaper per oz. than even half of the name brand. BOGOS aren't always a better buy. You have to be careful.

Do you have to ask what I did? I spent the $17.10 and bought the two 15 oz. jars. PLUS, the jars are great for storing beans and such when the coconut oil is gone. Win-win, right?

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