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Everyday Coupon Queen Thomasville Times Enterprise Columns!

 

Sunday, 8/26/12

Get off the Tracks!

If you were standing on train tracks and saw that a train was coming towards you, it would mean certain disaster to remain immobile and hope it swerved around you. A wiser course of action would be to get off the tracks before it mowed you down! In case you haven’t noticed, there is a train coming down the tracks with Mother Nature and Uncle Sam driving that puppy at full throttle!! It’s destination? A grocery store near you!

Over the last few weeks, I have been encouraging readers to begin stocking up on specific items in anticipation of higher food prices due to the coming corn drought. Several of you have contacted me with questions and assurances that you are indeed stocking up on and freezing items such as meats, milk and other dairy products. This is great news!

For those of you who have NOT been stocking up, begin doing so as soon as possible, because trouble is just around the bend, especially since two things occurred last week that are sure to lead to higher meat prices BEFORE the effects of a sun- shriveled corn crop actually kick into high gear.

Last weexk we saw two major developments that signal even tougher times ahead: a record high price of beef and the president’s announcement on August 13, that our government would be spending taxpayer dollars in order to inflate the price of meat around the country. Yes, you read that correctly. In one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, our government seeks to raise prices of meat even further!

On Monday, president Obama, while campaigning in Missouri Valley, Iowa, stated, “Today the Department of Agriculture announced that it will buy up to $100 million worth of pork products, $50 million worth of chicken, and $20 million worth of lamb and farm-raised catfish,”

“Prices are low, farmers and ranchers need help, so it makes sense,” Obama explained. He then went on to say, “It makes sense for farmers who get to sell more of their product, and it makes sense for taxpayers who will save money because we’re getting food we would have bought anyway at a better price.” What???? Sorry Mr. President, but that makes NO sense! My red flag immediately went to full mast because, as I have pointed out in previous columns, when the government begins to manipulate our markets, including food markets, it creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and all bets are off as to where market prices will eventually go. No matter what prompted this decision, it’s bad for consumers and will result in higher prices in meat departments due to an artificial demand for the products.

In addition, two days later on Wednesday, August 15, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average price of ground beef hit an all-time record high in the United States in July. The report stated that since January 2009, the growth in the average price of all uncooked ground beef has continued to outpace inflation. Had it grown at the pace of inflation it would have been $3.37 in July, instead of the $3.747 that BLS reported on Wednesday.

Given these two factors, it’s clear that the American consumer will see leaner times at the meat counter sooner than expected. It would be in your best interests as consumers for me to reiterate how important it is to your family and your wallet for you to go ahead and purchase meats now to store for later. I am not sure how soon we will begin see a marked acceleration of meat prices, but it would be remiss of me if I did not share with you my concern. As someone who is a self-described “research freak” and invested in helping others to make the most of their financial resources, especially as pertaining to food items, I cannot stress enough the importance of your being prepared. Due to increasingly limited financial resources and escalating meat and other food prices, we look to be headed toward some sort of crisis.

When most of us think of a crisis, we generally envision a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood or even a drought. Living in the land of plenty, many of us can’t imagine a time that it would be otherwise. But it can happen faster than one would believe with shortages of basic items.

All situations are different. Sometimes, we have no warning that we are about to experience a crisis or disaster situation that will cause supplies to become scarce and prices to be driven upwards. However, there are times, like now, when we know an adverse situation is on the horizon, but fail to adequately prepare.

While it is horrible when people are caught unprepared and without the items they need due to a sudden disaster, it’s even sadder when people have advanced warning, yet still find themselves without those necessary items because of procrastination.

My goal is not to frighten you, but to inform you that circumstances are ripe for even higher meat prices which will lead to further financial trouble for all of us. Make sure you are not caught unprepared by stocking up on the meats mentioned above. Two great sources to purchase these meats because of loss leader sales are Harveys on Wednesdays and Bob and Jeff’s during their two week specials. Other stores may have good sales too, but these stores have proven themselves consistent when it comes to deeply discounted meats.

I don’t want the train of higher meat prices to steamroll over you, so now is the time to take action and get off the tracks. To further help you, I will dedicate the next few ECQ columns to sharing with you items you’ll want to have on hand, so that you are prepared for just about anything the economy throws your way. Serious times call for serious solutions and being prepared is not an option, it’s a necessity. To leave a comment or question, go to kim@everydaycouponqueen.com . For information on how you can attend a FREE Everyday Couponing Workshop go to www.everydaycouponqueen.com

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Sunday, 1/29/12

Freezing Staple Items(Eggs, Milk, etc…)

 

As an avid couponer, I understand the importance of stockpiling items, especially items which are recognized as household staples.  So, when an item that my family regularly uses goes on sale and I happen to have a coupon that will lower the cost of the item to a stockpile price, then I buy as much of it as my family will use until it cycles back on sale again. Of course, I then store everything for an extend period of time.

There’s only one problem.  What do you do when the items you want to stockpile are perishable?  Well, you think outside of the box, or rather, inside of the “ice box”! By utilizing your freezer, you can store useful staple items and save money in the process.  When you stockpile an item, you generally buy it at the price YOU want to pay, not the price the STORE wants you to pay. Plus, you purchase as much of it as you need, effectively locking in a lower price for the items.

This past week, I caught a great sale on milk. The timing couldn’t have been better, as my sons easily go through 2 gallons each week, so we always need it.  Since I was able to find a great sale and had a nice milk coupon to use, I purchased each gallon for $2.25. In the end, I bought a total of 7 gallons!  You might wonder about how my family could possibly use all 7 gallons before they expire.  The truth is, milk guzzlers that we are, there is no way my family can finish off 7 gallons of milk before they spoil!

In order to preserve my investment, I stored one gallon of milk within our kitchen’s refrigerator, one in the outside refrigerator and the rest in the deep freezer to be thawed out later. On this particular shopping trip, in addition to 7 gallons of milk, I also purchased one 24-pack of water and 6 cans of Chef Boyardee products. I spent $13.45 on a grocery order that was originally $46.00. So, I want to make sure and protect my 70% savings by freezing the extra milk items before they spoil.

Some of you might be surprised to realize that you can freeze milk. All you need to do is thaw it out in the fridge, then give it a few good shakes to distribute the fat that separates during the freezing process.  Store the product in your refrigerator and use as you would milk that hasn’t previously been frozen.  Personally, I find that whole milk and 2% seem to thaw better than skim milk, but you may have a different experience.

In addition to milk, you can also freeze staples like bread, cheese, and…of all things…eggs!  Freezing items such as these are not new. For centuries, in climates cold enough for their inhabitants to freeze food items, all types of foods have been frozen. Luckily for us, through innovation and different food-freezing techniques, we can all take advantage of fresh frozen vegetables, fruits and other staples directly from the freezer.

In fact, we can all thank Clarence Birdseye, yes, THAT Birdseye, for inventing the frozen food technique we currently know and use today.  So, how can we turn our freezers into a frozen money saving machine? By using it wisely to store everyday staple items! As noted previously, we save money by purchasing multiples of staple items at their lowest possible prices and storing them for future use.

If you were surprised about being able to freeze milk, hang onto your hats as you learn how to freeze eggs! Why freeze eggs? Well, let’s say you find a great sale on eggs and buy 8 dozen, but are worried that they might spoil before you have a chance to use them. While 8 dozen may seem far-fetched, I assure you it’s not. My family of five can make short work of a few dozen eggs in a day or two. So, 8 dozen is not unrealistic for larger families with teenaged boys.  Should you find yourself in a situation where you have more eggs than you can possibly use before they expire, simply freeze the excess items. There are a few ways to freeze them and save on your “egg-vestment”:

1) Raw Egg Whites- To freeze raw egg  whites, break and separate the eggs, one at a time, making sure that no trace of yolk is mixed in with the whites. Pour the whites into freezer containers, seal tightly, label with the number of egg whites and the date, and freeze. For faster thawing and easier measuring, first freeze each white in a standard ice cube tray. Then transfer to a freezer container.

2) Raw Yolks- Unless you “doctor” them up a bit, raw egg yolks tend to gel and render themselves un-useable when frozen over time.  To successfully freeze the yolks by themselves, you must do the following:  Blend in either 1/8 teaspoon salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar or corn syrup per 1/4 cup of egg yolks (roughly 4 yolks). Label the container with the number of yolks, date, and whether you’ve added salt (for main dishes) or sweetener (for baking or desserts). Freeze.

3) Whole eggs- When freezing whole eggs, make sure you gently stir the entire egg (yolk and white) until blended, making sure no extra air is added in the process. Pour into freezer containers, seal tightly, label with the number of eggs, date and freeze.

4) Hard-boiled egg yolks- While it’s not recommended that you freeze an entire hard-boiled egg or a hard-boiled egg white**, you CAN freeze hard-boiled egg yolks to use later for toppings or garnishes. Begin by carefully placing raw egg yolks (in a single layer) in a saucepan. Add enough water to a level of 1 inch or more above the yolks. Cover with a lid and quickly bring just to boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and let the yolks stand, covered, in the hot water for 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain the yolks well, then package yolks for freezing.

**About Hard Boiled whole Eggs and Eggs Whites: They become tough and watery when frozen, so do not freeze. To learn more, go to http://www.incredibleegg.org/egg-facts/eggcyclopedia/f/freezing-eggs

Are you curious about freezing other staples? Below is a list of staple items and their “freeze-ability”:

THESE FREEZE WELL!
Bacon & Sausage- However, once bacon is thawed it must be used within 2-3 days as it spoils more rapidly after having been frozen.
Cream soups -poured into ice cube trays. Thaw & stir with milk or water if it separates
Cheese, singles & shredded
Goat Cheese
Hard Cheeses such as parmesan –grate them and store in a zippered plastic freezer bags
Croutons
Hot Dogs
Heavy creams – shake well & mix with a small amount of dissolved gelatin if it separates
Eggs (raw, out of shell)
Egg Beaters
Red Potatoes, Halved
Avocados, Halved & Pitted
Guacamole
Poultry, cooked off the bone
Beef, cooked or raw
Butter, Margarine (sticks, tub)
Pasta
Rice (brown) – all other types of rice have an indefinite shelf life and therefore don’t require freezing
Cookie dough, raw
Yogurt, all types
Yeast
Parsley, Cilantro
Flavored Coffee Creamer
Berries
Orange Juice – shake to distribute liquid evenly before using
Cookies
Tortillas
Bread
Green Onions – chopped in ½ inch pieces. Smaller pieces tend to be too watery
Dry pre-packaged Cereals, Crackers, Cookies

 

THESE ITEMS FREEZE WITH MINOR PROBLEMS!
Lunchmeat- slightly watery, but a good paper towel blotting rectifies it
Milk & Soy Milk
Ricotta Cheese & Cottage Cheese
Block Cheese – Slightly crumbly, but fine in recipes
Bananas
Onions & Green Peppers (chopped)
Lemons (whole)
Refrigerated Crescent rolls, pizza dough & biscuits – not as fluffy as the manufacturer intended, but still tasty

 

DON’T EVEN GO THERE!!!
Sour Cream
Mayo/Miracle Whip
Apples (whole, chopped or sliced)
Ready-made sandwiches

As you can see, there are a number of everyday items that can be easily stored in freezers, extending their “shelf life” and our dollars. Now that you have an idea about items that you can and cannot freeze, in the coming weeks, we’ll learn about how and when to get the best deal on a freezer, plus, the best storage methods to maximize freezer space.

For information about how you can attend an Everyday Couponing 101 Workshop for free and learn how to save everyday in every-way, go to www.everydaycouponqueen.com . Questions and comments can be sent to kim@everydaycouponqueen.com

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 Sunday, 9/18/11

Decoding Coupon Lingo

While there are many great deals to be had using coupons, the reality is that a great deal is useless to someone who doesn’t understand how to decipher everyday couponing terminology. Being unfamiliar with couponing lingo is like traveling to a foreign country without first being apprised of the customs, currency or language indicative to that specific country. Without those basics, it becomes difficult to navigate your way around effectively. Consider the example below:

Bayer Advanced Aspirin, $3.47
-$2/1
Bayer Advanced Aspirin, exp. 9/30/11 (SS 06/12/11)
-$2/1 MIR, exp
. 9/30/11 (SS 06/12/11)
= FAR and $2/1 SS Coupon!

For anyone who has been to the “coupon rodeo” more than a few times, this deal on Bayer Advanced Aspirin is quite simple to understand.  However, if you’re having trouble breaking the coupon code, you are not alone! Just like any foreign language, and for many, couponing truly IS similar to a foreign language; the more you are exposed to the “language of couponing”, the more adept you’ll become at recognizing, understanding and utilizing it. Perhaps not overnight, but definitely over time!

Below are a few commonly used terms that should help you to have a better understanding of the terminology or ”Lingo” used in the couponing world. Once you’ve become familiar with these terms and their meanings, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be able to move through deals and Ad matchups!

B1G1, BOGO, B1G1F – “Buy One Get One Free”
$2/1 – Two dollars off one item
FAR – Free After Rebate
MFR- Manufacturer
MQ- Manufacturer Coupon
MIR- Mail in Rebate
OOP- Out of Pocket
YMMV- Your Market May Vary (you may find items priced differently or they may work differently)
PG- Proctor & Gamble (coupon insert found in select newspapers, generally once per month)
RP- Red Plum (coupon insert found in newspaper)
SS- Smart Source (coupon insert found in newspaper)
WYB- When You Buy
WSL- While Supplies last
CRT- Cash Register Tape
Exp.-Expires
IP- Internet Printable coupon

You’ll notice that several couponing terms ($2/1, SS, MIR, FAR & Exp.) are actually found within the Bayer Advanced Aspirin deal listed above. After reviewing the deal once more, and inserting the definitions, you probably realize that after using the $2 off 1 coupon (found in the Smart source coupon insert from the 6/12/11 issue and expiring on 9/30/11) AND the $2 off 1 mail in rebate (rebate form found in the Smart Source insert found in the 6/12/11 issue and expiring on 9/30/11), you’ll be able to score this deal for FREE after rebate! Congratulations, you’ve just decoded coupon lingo!

Here is this week’s “Everyday Cha-Ching Deal”.  Whenever possible, I’ll utilize the coupons found within the inserts published the same day as is this column. However, with recent changes in printing venues and deadlines, it’s not always attainable.

This week we will have 2 “Everyday Cha-Ching Deals”. The first deal can be found at CVS, and requires NO coupon at all, and the second deal, found at Publix, utilizes an “in-store” coupon.

CVS Cha-Ching Deal: (Good from Sunday, 9/18-Tuesday, 9/20)
 BUY: (1) 8 oz. Gold Emblem Candy Corn, Autumn Mix or Pumpkins candy (limit one deal per household)
 PAY: .99
 GET BACK: .99 cents in Extra Care Bucks
 FINAL COST: FREE (100% savings)
 
Publix Cha-Ching Deal: (Good thru Wednesday, 9/21)
 BUY: (1) Pillsbury Biscuit Sandwich (regularly $3.19), on sale for $2.50
 Or      (1) Pillsbury Egg Scrambles (regularly $3.19), on sale for $2.50
 Or      (1) Pillsbury Toaster Strudels or Toaster Scrambles (regularly $2.99), on sale for $2.50
 USE: (1) $1/1 Publix store coupon found at customer service at Publix in the Yellow Advantage Flyer
 FINAL COST: $1.50 (a savings of 53% if buying Biscuit Sandwich or Egg Scrambles product)
 
For even more savings:  Add a $1/1 Pillsbury Frozen Egg Scrambles or Biscuit Sandwiches printable MQ (manufacturer’s coupon) to the Publix store coupon, making the final cost just $.50 cents (a savings of over 84%) You can access this printable coupon at www.everydaycouponqueen.com

*Questions and comments may be directed to kim@everydaycouponqueen.com

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Sunday, 9/11/11

Everyday Couponing verses Extreme Couponing

After Consistently shopping with coupons for about 4 years and having taught couponing workshops for almost as long in the North Florida/South Georgia area, I can say from experience,” Ordinary coupons, when used properly and wisely, can bring about extra-ordinary changes in your grocery bill”!

Just a few years ago, I was spending around $1,000 per month on groceries to feed my family of five. With a downturn in the economy and rising costs of the goods and services we typically enjoyed, I found myself bringing home fewer groceries for the same amount of money, week after week.  Since my husband and I are raising (and feeding) 3 growing boys with hardy appetites, I decided to try a few ideas to cut down on the cost of the items I bought on a weekly basis. I switched from name brand to store brand products whenever they were available, as well as, only buying certain items like snack foods for the boys on a bi-monthly basis. When these ideas failed to solve my dilemma and satisfy my family, I turned to my computer and began to research techniques to effectively save money on groceries….namely with coupons!

I was skeptical at first. How much could one little .50 cent coupon really impact my grocery bill? Turns out, quite significantly! Since the .50 cent coupon in question was used on a one dollar sale item, and the store in which I was shopping happened to double coupons valued at .50 cents or less; I was able to get the item, originally priced at $2.00, for FREE!

By utilizing coupons, I was and still am able to whittle my monthly bill down to $150-$200, for an average savings of around 80%-85% per month without sacrificing the majority of brands my family loves. In fact, I am able to buy even more items now with LESS money! Best of all, I need not adhere to some of the outlandish measures witnessed on TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” to realize substantial savings, but employ realistic, common-sense techniques along with coupons and discounts available to me in my own community.

I cannot tell you the number of people I meet, who after viewing an episode or two of “Extreme Couponing”; believe that, like the couponers depicted on television, they too will be able to purchase $1,500 in groceries for just $15.50 (tax included of course). It sounds great, right?  Sure it does, but when was the last time you saw a store clerk at your local grocery store wheel out a pallet of 1000 boxes of cereal specially ordered for a customer…NEVER is my guess!

While the show makes for good entertainment, it has unfortunately led countless people into believing that they can get thousands of dollars in merchandise for just pennies! Let me make this clear: those kinds of savings are NOT going to happen in our “neck of the woods” or in 95% of the rest of our country. While you can periodically purchase items for 5%-10% of their original cost and often for free, it is unrealistic to believe that you’ll consistently have an entire shopping cart full of these sorts of buys each time you shop. In order to realize the astronomical savings seen on “Extreme Couponing”, you MUST live in an area of the country where the majority of stores allow generous competitor’s coupons to be taken and high value doubling policies to boot! In short, you need to live in a metropolitan area with numerous competitors. Also, those seen on the television show basically live, eat and sleep coupons and that’s just not a realistic option for the everyday American seeking to lower the cost of their grocery bill, nor SHOULD it be! An extreme couponer lives to coupon, but an everyday couponer utilizes coupons to live!

To that end, each week you will be given information, ideas and tips, as well as, regional bargains that are relevant and accessible to you on everyday food, baby, pet, health, beauty and household items. I’ll highlight one or two great deals that can be found at area stores, utilizing the manufacturer coupons found in your Sunday newspaper, the day after this Everyday Couponing column runs. This way, even the most inexperienced or occasional couponer will have access to the coupons needed to complete the highlighted deal(s) without the pre-requisite of a printer.

Let the savings begin with this week’s “Cha-Ching Deal”, found at your local Walgreen’s. Remember, you’ll find the coupons needed to make this deal work in tomorrow’s Sunday paper. This is a two-part deal. You may do BOTH or choose to do each transaction separately, but keep in mind that the savings won’t be as great if you separate them.

TRANSACTION #1
Buy: 1 package of Huggies Slip-On Diapers at $8.99 (regularly $9.49)
Use: (1) $3/1 Huggies coupon found in this Sunday’s Smart Source Coupon Insert
Pay: Just $5.99 + tax, after coupon and get back $2 in Register Rewards for purchasing the diapers
 
TRANSACTION #2
Buy: (2) Jars of Ragu Pasta Sauce on sale for 2/$4(regularly priced at 2/$6)
Buy: (1) Mueller’s Pasta (up to a 1 lb. box, priced at $1.69)
Use: (1) FREE Mueller’s Pasta when you buy any 2 jars of Ragu Pasta Sauce coupon found in this Sunday’s Red Plum Coupon Insert
Use:  the $2 Register Rewards from transaction #1
Pay: Just $2+ tax for all 3 items!
Final cost for both transactions: $7.99+ tax (all 4 items for less than the cost of the diapers-even with them on sale)
Total Savings: $9.19 or 53%

*Couponing questions and/or comments may be sent to kim@everydaycouponqueen.com. Each month there will be a column dedicated to addressing reader’s questions and couponing concerns.