Time on My Hands to Save $$$$

A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon I was bored. There didn’t seem to be anything interesting on TV, so while I was dinking around in my kitchen there was a show called Extreme Couponing playing on the adjacent family room TV. The show had several concurrent episodes playing. I was kind of half paying attention until I noticed some unbelievable amounts of money these people were savings due to their efforts of combining coupons with grocery store sales until they were getting most of their items for pennies on the dollar. In fact, even free. And in some cases even getting paid to take the stuff away. Imagine paying $5 for hundreds of dollars worth of stuff.  Never mind that these coupon superstars tend to buy tons of stuff that they don’t actually need right away and fill their garages and every spare inch of storage spaces within their homes with stuff they call their stock piles. One woman even borrowed space from her neighbors! Hoarding –only in neat little piles.

After filing our taxes a couple of months ago, I decided to take a look at our spending habits by analyzing our joint checking account and income for the past year and created a monthly budget based on what I found. Without a doubt our biggest monthly expenditure is groceries –even more than our housing, vehicle and utilities all together! We don’t eat out often and when we do, we eat at inexpensive venues and fast food places. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but prices have been on a steady climb, so it is only going to get worse.

No need to dumpster dive for coupons anymore!

No need to dumpster dive for coupons anymore!

Extreme couponing is not a new concept… and I’ve come to realize these shows were not so new either. While printed (and printable) coupons are still out there, this method of combining and “doubling” coupons isn’t so available anymore at places where I shop. The best you can hope to do where I shop is use a coupon on a sale item. Just the same –as I have done periodically throughout my adulthood– I’ve decided to give “couponing” a go once again. Only this time, deciding to get smarter about it. After all, even though I’m retired, I’ve decided the time I’m going to invest in this endeavor is of value. So I was inspired on that Saturday afternoon with the knowledge of my out-of-wack grocery bill, that it was high time I found a way to cut costs any way I can without sacrificing our lifestyle choices if possible –though we could definitely stand to eat a bit healthier. (By that I mean less.)

Coupons have a lot of rules. I try not to embarrass my self further at the checkout (while I'm holding up the  line) as the check goes through reading each and every one of them in the pile!

Coupons have a lot of rules. I try not to embarrass my self further at the checkout (while I’m holding up the line) as the checker goes through reading each and every one of them in the pile!

So how do you find out how to do it nowadays? Why the internet of course! While I now peruse the weekly flyers that fill my mailbox every Wednesday for coupons (both grocery and restaurant types), I’ve also discovered online sites where you can print manufacturer’s coupons. The best site by far is coupons.com where you virtually ‘clip’ manufacturer’s coupons from hundreds that are available. You have to download their printer app due to the bar codes that are printed on the coupons (fyi not working on Chrome). They print three to a sheet so I try to make my total print job in multiples of three so I don’t waste paper. –Need to take into consideration the cost of paper and ink. Then I use a cheap little paper cutter to manually clip my coupons at four sheets at a time. I then file my coupons (by expiration date) in a notebook with sleeves that are tabbed to reflect areas in a grocery store where like item types would be grouped so I don’t have to spend a whole lot of time rifling through all of my coupons to find them while I’m shopping.

Krazy Coupon Lady

Krazy Coupon Lady

That’s just the beginning and it reflects the ‘old fashioned way’ of coupon or discount grocery shopping. There’s more! Yes soooo much more to try and learn! Much of what I know now I’ve learned from a couple of gals that have a website called the Krazy Coupon Lady.com. Joannie and Heather became nationally known a little over a year ago on the now defunct Nate Berkus Show.  They have a lot of YouTube videos that tell you how to “save money in 2015” by utilizing the internet to not only “stack” coupons but get money back by rebating (with your smart phone!) from sites named Ibota, Jingit, Checkout 51, Shopmium and Slice. For the most part you use your phone to scan your receipts and match your purchases to the items on these sites and get coupon-similar refunds. You can also collect refundable points on some sites just for walking in the door! They also tell you how to shop certain stores like Costco, Walmart and Target that have apps to help save additionally. What’s more the Krazy Coupon Lady does a lot of the footwork and figuring out for you by sharing via email “deals” that combine coupons, store sales and rebate sites for maximum savings.

Joanie & Heather

Joanie & Heather

Another “new in 2015” idea is online grocery shopping. Krazy Coupon Lady tells you about these features available on Amazon. There’s a couple of ways to save: One is to ‘subscribe’ to certain items that you purchase in regular intervals. Subscription prices are slightly less than their regular price and can be combined with Amazon’s virtual coupons. The other way is to utilize Amazon Prime Pantry. You have to subscribe to Amazon Prime ($100/year) and pay shipping by the box.  The system shows you what percentage of the box is filled as you add items to your “shopping cart”. These items may have virtual coupons available to be applied. I placed my first order yesterday and it arrived in todays mail! The postman said he delivered three of them today. I was surprised others in my community knew about it as it’s a new thing (and we’re not! LOL). Amazon doesn’t sell perishables like fresh vegeys or meat and their prices aren’t usually cheaper than the same items at the local grocery store, but you don’t waste gas or have to find a place to park. Considering it got here so fast, I’m already feeling like I won at least a small battle as I order a lot of things from Amazon besides groceries. I’m still in the ‘trial’ period for Amazon Prime (which means I haven’t paid for a membership yet) and even though my first order shipped free, not sure it’s going to be worth it. I don’t have a Costco membership either for the same reason. On the fence on this one still and I’ve got a couple of weeks yet to decide.

So far it feels like I’m spending a lot of time on this coupon thing and it will take a lot more time to see a return. Partly because I’m enjoying a new hobby I suppose. Time will tell…

 

 

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Gadgets

Awhile ago I wrote about a thing called a Garlic Zoom that chops garlic. Now there’s a gadget that peels them for you too.

This morning on The Kitchen (Food Network) was one of my favorite periodic segments where they demonstrate gadgets vs. the old fashioned way (like using a paring knife). Today one of those gadgets was a simple silicon tube that is used to peel garlic. Checking them out on ebay, one can get one for as low as a buck and they come from China. garlic peeler

Now I’ve always done it the old fashioned way with the side of a wide chef’s knife that really is kind of messy, sticky peels stuck to your hands and you come away smelling like a clove of garlic. However, this new garlic peeling method works really slick and the smell is left on the gadget and not on your fingers.

I don’t actually have a garlic peeling tube, but I do have a couple of small silicone objects with which I decided to see if I could get the same results. One was a larger cupcake mold and the other was a silicone jar opening pad that was a give-away from my bank (several years ago). Both of these worked like a charm, though the jar opener worked better and I don’t like the idea that my cupcake mold might forever smell like garlic.cupcake mold

 

With the jar opener pad, I just folded it over like a taco shell and inserted a few garlic cloves inside. Then you roll it just firm enough not to crush the clove. And voile’ the peel comes off like magic sticking to the silicon in small shreds. My jar opener has a textured side that I used against the garlic and it seems to work better than the smooth side. I peeled a whole garlic (with 20 cloves) in less than two minutes. Clean up is a breeze and no more stinky garlic fingers! The jar opener pad can be rinsed under water or even go in the dishwasher if you are worried about garlicky smelling  jar lids. jar opener

I guess the take away from this post is there are lots of ingenious gadgets on the market that are inexpensive and don’t take up a lot of space (like the silicone jar opening pad, the garlic peeler or the garlic zoom). More importantly, you may find things you already have may do the trick nicely.

 

 

Garlic Zoom

800px-GarlicBasketI have to admit I can be a sucker for new gadgets. I have a salad slicer with lots of components sitting in my cabinet that I’ve never used because it just seems so fussy to bother with. Most of the gadgets I see can really be replaced with a single sharp knife. So who needs ’em?! Right?

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Well, last weekend on the Food Network channel’s new show The Kitchen they reviewed some gadgets and one of them was a little object with blades inside with wheels called a Garlic Zoom. It seemed kinda silly. Then while at Ross a couple of days after viewing the show, there was actually one on the shelf for a little less than $6. I thought why not do my own test to see if I would agree that the best solution for chopping garlic is still a good sharp knife as indicated by the show. So at worse I  would be out the price of a latte and one more piece of junk stuffed in my gadget drawer.

800px-Italian_garlic_PDO

Imagine my surprise when the thing actually worked! You do have to take the skins off of the garlic cloves. And I do that with the side of my chef’s knife cracked against the side of the clove –so I guess I still need a knife for that part. But that’s all –then just stuff the peeled clove in the top of the little door on the gadget. Then you just roll it on the counter and the little chopping knives in it go to work creating a nice mince. 41r3vWHFdLL31kKmlJdNwLEasy Peasy!

You can see in the bottom picture there is a bigger door that opens to get the chopped garlic out and makes it easy to clean. Just rinse it out  but be careful of the little knife gizmo inside that comes out as it is pointy and sharp!

I’d say the co-hosts on The Kitchen missed the mark on this one. It’s easy to use, easy to clean and is tiny so it doesn’t take up a lot of storage space. I would highly recommend it especially for those with difficulty mincing with a knife which happens when people get older (than the co-hosts on The Kitchen). The Garlic Zoom gets a big thumbs up from me!

IMG_0001[1]It worked pretty good on a serrano chile too. I just cut the stem off and cut it into thirds and popped it in. I use the seeds because I like them hot. Pretty much anything bigger wouldn’t work so good because this gadget is tiny and you need to use a fairly firm chile to get it to work.

FYI… they sell for closer to $10 on Amazon plus shipping. I’m not sure I would have bit for that price. I got mine at Ross when they just happened to be stocking the shelves with a new shipment of kitchen stuff.