Monday, 28 May 2012

The Art of Couponing

Over the past couple of months some of my friends have asked me about my couponing addiction and just how that whole coupon thing works so I decided that I would write a blog post on the topic. Now I cannot claim to be a couponing expert in any way, shape or form but I have been doing it for a while now and have actually managed to save a lot of money on my grocery bill. So here is how I do it and hopefully some of this might work for you:

  • First thing you need to do is get coupons. There are 4 basic ways that I do this.
    • There are 4 websites where you can sign up and they will mail them to you. You can also ask some of your friends and family members to sign up as well and to pass along the coupons they won't use. My brother and I do this and its awesome.
    • Tear Pads - many stores (Shoppers Drug Mart, Real Canadian Super Store etc..) have tear pads of coupons either at the main entrance of the store or along the aisle ways. Only take what you are fairly certain you will use and be kind and don't hog them all:)
    • There are a few places online that you are able to print off coupons from:
    •  Newspaper inserts - every few weeks coupon inserts can be found in local newspapers. I have relatives that save these inserts for me as well so that I am able to stock up on products that me and my family love.
There are a couple other ways to gather coupons but I will just stick with the basics for this post and maybe expand upon it another time:)
  • So now that you have the coupons, what to do with them?? Well the best way to get started is to get organized! You don't have to be super organized but if you are a red hot mess and your coupons are everywhere, in you purse, in an envelope, stuck in your car...couponing will not be very successful. As most people know I am not an extremely organized person but I have a binder (see photo below) and I place each coupon in a plastic trading card sheet. Now how you want to organize them after that is up to you, I personally stick all my food coupons together, all my shampoo coupons together, all my toothpaste together etc... this is very helpful when you are actually in a store and want to see if you have a coupon for a specific product. 
yep, I'm a nerd, The Little Mermaid from when I was a child and collected cards.

a bit of a mess since I'm in the middle of reorganizing! Will show another pic once I'm done

 Now I know that it might sound like a lot of work so far but really it isn't. Especially once you get all set up it is actually very easy to maintain. One side note is that when you have more than one coupon for the same product I like to slip them in the same spot in expiry date order. So that the ones that expire the soonest are the ones that I will grab and use first.

  • Ok, so now you've got the coupons, you're organized and you're ready to start shopping!! What I like to do next is make out a LIST!! I find if I don't do this it won't matter how many coupons I have I will always spend more money than I had planned on. Couponing is only good if you are actually saving money on items you already use and NOT spending money (but saving a little) on things your family won't use (or don't really need). To start off I recommend taking your weekly grocery list (you do make one right??) with all the sales and see if you have any coupons that will make those items cost even less. When I'm making my list I have a basic price in my head for each item that I won't pay more than. For example: Salad dressing - I won't pay more than $1.00 for Kraft salad dressing, if its on sale for a $1.00 and I have a coupon that will make it less than that's even better but I won't use a coupon for it when it's full price at $2.49 I will wait until I can get it for $1.00
  • Once you have your list made and are ready to go shopping, I usually pull out the coupons that I KNOW I will be using and put them in an envelope so that when it comes time to pay I will just put the appropriate coupon with the product on the belt for the cashier to scan through. So with your coupons in an envelope, your coupon binder in your purse (in case you spot a good deal/something you need and you have a coupon for it) head on out and start shopping!!!
 After you have been couponing a couple times or if you are feeling extremely adventurous you can up your savings potential and ease of shopping by price matching on top of couponing. As far as I know there are two main stores that will price match and probably have what you are looking for: 1. Walmart 2. The Real Canadian Superstore. I have price matched and couponed at both stores and generally speaking have never had a problem. Here is a generalized description of how I price match:

  • Write out your grocery list by store. Under each store name write your item, size and price. Make sure you bring the flyers with you when grocery shopping. It helps to circle the items you are price matching and fold that page for easy reference
  • Once everything is in your buggy and you are ready to check out I like to begin by placing everything on the belt that you are NOT price matching  (with the appropriate coupons if I have any) and then I like to smile and let the cashier know that at the end of my order are the items I will be price matching. I find if I give them a heads up they tend to appreciate it.
  • Then I place the first flyer followed by the items that I will be price matching from that flyer. If I have any coupons for those items I place them with the product. Then I lay down the next flyer and place those items behind it and so forth and so on until all of my items are on the belt.
  • If anyone comes up behind me in line I kindly smile and say 'I just want to let you know that I may be a bit longer because I am price matching and couponing' More often than not people are interested in watching or they thank me for letting them know and move to another line. I really think it is a simple courtesy to let people know this.
Those are the basics and I know that it sounds like a lot but it really isn't once you get going.

Now I'm going to get up on my soapbox for a second here and say that, personally, I and my girls, have been blessed with a husband and father, who works incredibly hard and long hours to support our family. In turn this allows me to work minimal hours and home school our girls. In response to that I (and this is me personally) feel called by God to be extremely frugal with our grocery money (as well as other areas of our budget) and wherever possible to save, even if it means a little more work and effort on my part. So I clip coupons, I spend more time writing out my grocery list, I deal with cranky cashiers and don't always get things that I want but at the end of the day I feel that I have done my best with what I have been so graciously given. End of soapboxing. (I really don't think that's a word but I like it, so I'm going to keep I'm done:)

A couple great websites to check out that helped me get started:
Let me know if anything is confusing or if you have any questions at all!!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Day 3 - The Batting Cages

Day three of our vacation is when we really started to notch things up a bit:) After mommy (aka: me) working in the morning we decided to hit the batting cages in the afternoon. Now I truly love baseball. I'm a die hard Jays fan and can't go a season without hitting at least a couple home games. The problem with that arises when I try to translate my love of the game into me actually PLAYING the game!! Josh and I have played co-ed ball for the last couple of years and I've come to the realization that I was not designed to be an athlete, of any sort. I have short legs, no upper body strength, the co-ordination of a three-legged giraffe and the speed of a all in all not so great of a ball player. However, last year in our one day playoff tournament I somehow morphed into this somewhat decent hitter and actually managed to get on base (once or twice). So myself, my darling friend, boss lady and fellow co-ed player, Melanie and I thought that we should hit the batting cages in anticipation for our opening co-ed game. Being that Josh was on vacation and we had decided to do everything possible as a family, him and the kiddies tagged along.

Woohoo all excited for the batting cages!

they definitely don't look as excited:(
did not make contact for at least the first 30 balls

Miss Melanie on the other hand killed it!!
Josh giving tips

showing us how its done

sweatshirt off and getting down to business
now some excitement!

silly faces

watching hard
We ended up hitting balls for an hour and about halfway into it the kids were starting to get bored and antsy so Josh decided to take them mini-putting. Thankfully the course was right there and the kids had a blast!!
my little rockstar:)

Bray concentrating really hard

I love her outfit! My kids always insist on dressing themselves
Over the bridge

Go Bray Go!
Way too much fun was had this day. We came home and rushed to have supper since Josh was heading out to watch some Junior hockey action with his dad and the girls and I were staying home to have a girls night. While Josh and I loved our supper the kids were less than fact there might have been some gagging and crying involved which perhaps might have led to cereal being served. Here it is: The Portobello Mushroom Burger!!!
Super tasty meat replacement.
 Once our delicious, disastrous dinner was over I finally got around to teaching Braelyn how to fingerknit. Anyone else out there addicted to Pinterest?? It really is my new frenemy. It has so many great ideas that I will never get around to doing so I alternately love and loathe it. A couple of weeks ago I became obsessed with finger knitting (after seeing it on Pinterest of course) and knit a partially finished rug in my non-existant spare time...well ok primarily when Josh was working late and I should have been doing laundry. I quickly taught McKayla a couple days after but I knew it would take a little bit more time to show Braelyn since she is two years younger than Mick. In the end it was actually really easy to teach her and I'm glad that all of us (besides poor Em baby) know how. Really looking forward to next winter when I'm hoping we will spend more time doing this. By the way Mick took all the pictures below and I think she did an awesome job!! Even better than mine!!

casting on to the fingers
starting to get the hang of it

now we're getting somewhere!

having fun together|:)

Stay tuned for when we deviate slightly from our regularly scheduled blog post about vacationing to talk about couponing...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Our Staycation - Part Two

The first day of our vacation was a big success. Now on to day two. Unfortunately although Josh was off work I still had a couple hours to put into my job. I have the wonderful privilege of working approx. 3 hours a week for a Christian preschool that is literally within ball throwing distance from my house. So Monday had me heading off to work for an hour in the morning, coming home for lunch and a little break and then heading back for another hour in the afternoon. We decided to lay low for that day and ended up teaching the children how to play 'Pit' a favourite childhood card game of both mine and Josh's. Actually his mom had unearthed it from a closet in her house the previous night when we were there for dinner in an effort to finally get rid of the overabundance of board games they have.

If you've never played Pit here are a couple links to check it out:

Josh teaching Bray
McKayla caught on right away and while Braelyn understood the concept she found it really difficult to hold all nine cards in her hand so she started off the game by placing whatever stock/commodity she had the most of face down in front of her and her 'trading cards' in her hand. This was hilarious because we could never get her to trade them even if she ended up accumulating more of another stock/commodity than what she had down on the table in front of her!! Ah well by the end of the week we were eventually able to explain it all to her.

Mick hiding from the camera

Figuring out the cards so there are enough commodities for the number of people playing
Nothing super important here, just love his dimples!!

Yay! Mick won a hand!!

Emerson grating

After playing the game for what seemed like hours we decided to bake a carrot cake. Now I've made carrot cake in the past and it hasn't been all that fabulous so I decided to go in search of a new and improved recipe. I scoured the internet and found one, copied it all onto a piece of paper for the girls and I to follow and now I can't remember where I found it!! Oh well at least I still have the piece of paper so that I can make it again but I really wanted to give credit to whoever came up with this recipe because it is FANTASTIC!! I will post the recipe at the bottom of the post.

Grating some more
After about 5 minutes of grating!!
that Braelyn is always tasting something
Emmy loves helping out
the finished product
Now I apologize for some of the blurry photos, being as old as I am and really having never used a camera doesn't make for the best pictures. And while the finished carrot cake doesn't look like much.... boy was it ever good, especially after adding the homemade cream cheese icing McKayla and I whipped up.

We also had a really yummy dinner of bacon wrapped chicken stuffed with asparagus and roasted red peppers served with wild mushroom couscous. Stay tuned for.....Vacation Day 3 - in which Alia (and the whole fam) go to the batting cages.


 Carrot Cake Recipe
3 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 tsps cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour
2 tsps baking soda
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In medium bowl sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside
3. In a large bowl combine eggs, buttermilk, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix well.
4. Add flour mixture to liquid mixture and mix well.
5. In medium bowl combine shredded carrots, coconut, walnuts, pineapple and raisins.
6. Using a large wooden spoon or heavy whisk add carrot mixture to batter and fold in well.
7. Pour batter into prepared (grease then dust with flour) 8x12" pan and bake for 1 hour. Cool 20 minutes.

Cream Cheese Icing
16oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, soft
2 cups sifted icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Cream butter and cream cheese together with electric beater (or KitchenAid mixer:)
2. Mix in vanilla and gradually add in icing sugar until well blended.
3. Spread on cake and lick the beaters, spoon and spatula.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Our 'Staycation' Part 1

So  I guess it was a couple weeks ago now that Josh had a whole week off and we decided to try out that new fangled idea of a 'staycation' Well let me tell you, I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the week, my house was a complete disaster, and I was in desperate need of a vacation even though technically we had just finished one!! But we have over 1000 pictures, tons of memories and I quite simply wouldn't trade any of the awesome time that we had together as a family for an expensive, all-inclusive, tropical, relaxing vacation.........ok I'd seriously consider it, but all in all it was fantastic.

The whole vacation started on Sunday April 30th and after going to church in the morning we needed to head on into the big ol' city of St. Catharines to pick up my dear Auntie's lovely camera that she was generously letting us borrow to document our week together. After picking up said camera (while my aunt stuffed my children full of junk and presents) we headed on over to Value Village (please insert French accent here to make it sound exotic) to pick up a few things. I really wanted to have a puzzle that the kids and I could work on for the week and thought we could pick one up fairly cheap second hand. Josh and I had aimed on eliminating the TV for his time off (for the most part) and both the girls and I love doing puzzles.  However, over the winter our puzzle selection grew kind of thin (as we finished off a bunch) and we were in the mood for something new and Springy.

Perfectly Springy feeling:)

One for each member of our family blessed with more than enough clothes
We were also looking for some cute pillowcases that we could make into dresses for little girls around the world. A friend of mine from highschool is a partner in a fabulous little organization that makes and inspires people to make beautiful pillowcase dresses that are delivered to girls in countries across the world. Please check out her link or like them on Facebook My girls and I have been itching to make, find supplies, or help out for a long while now but being a single income, single vehicle family has made it challenging to find the time and supplies to do this. So we decided that while Josh was off we would try to dedicate some of our time, energy and resources to accomplish this. Here are the pillowcases we found (finished dress pics to come at a later date:)

After Value Village we proceeded to FreshCo. a grocery store that we had never been to before. I really liked it and went on to spend a fortune on the freshest, most wonderful ingredients possible as I planned on doing a lot of cooking and baking!! Actually, to be honest the prices were fairly reasonable I'm just not used to shopping without price matching and couponing and with Josh and the three girls along I wasn't even about to mention that. We also bought super healthy food (which sadly is always more expensive), we're really trying to work healthier options into our diet, and thus slowly eliminate the not-so-healthy food we love. It feels much better than completely cutting things out. I'm hoping that by increasing the good stuff there will just naturally be less room for the bad stuff and that the girls (and Josh) really won't feel like its a big change all at once.

 We started to use the borrowed camera that very afternoon as we came home to this:

through the screen door shot

getting used to using the camera

through the window

finally outside (kids stole my good colander!!) but the rabbit hears me and in .5 seconds he runs away

We finished off our very first whole day together with a really nice dinner at my in-laws. Not having to cook was a fabulous way to start off our week together:) Stay tuned for the next segment titled....(wait for it) 'Our Staycation Part 2 - In which we teach the children how to play 'Pit'....