Websites I Coupon With

So, we now know that I
1. Coupon like a (kinda) sane person
2. Get my coupons from inserts and online ….and….
3. Am slightly OCD
4. Can organize my coupons even if I can’t organize my house

I have heard over and over and over again…

That’s great that you can save so much money, but I just don’t have the time!

Don’t have the time?
Who really does have time?

I don’t!

Did I mention I have kids?

Did I mention I’m married?

Did I mention I work?

No?

Well, consider yourself informed.

I don’t have the time to sit and peruse all the local store circulars and play the matching game to if I have a coupon that goes with whatever is on sale!

So, where do I get this information?

The internet!
*pause for angelic voices singing the hallelujah chorus*

There are any number of websites out there that are devoted to saving money and couponing.
The ones I use?

Ms. Couponista – Ms. Couponista is great! I follow her both on her webpage and on Facebook. Whenever she posts something new to her page it shows up on my Facebook page and I can click the link if I want to read more. Her website is easy to read and navigate. She has some fabulous links and I have found some great freebies from links on her site! She gives a preview of upcoming sales by each individual store. It also shows what coupons match sale items, where you can find these coupons and what the final price SHOULD be.

The Krazy Coupon Lady – You might recognize this lady from the very first episode of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing.” Her website is really good too. She does the same thing with upcoming sales as Ms. Couponista. BUT, the Krazy Coupon Lady and her partner in crime also have “how to” videos – I learned a lot from the video “How to Shop Walgreens” – and a radio program. I haven’t caught the radio program yet, but I have hopes of getting there. These ladies know what they are doing! They even have a book! Pick Another Check-out Lane, Honey!

The Coupon Mom – This lady is one of the first coupon gurus. She had appeared on morning television programs, written a book, and has her own website. The thing I don’t like about this website is that you have to subscribe. It’s free, but still kinda annoying to sign on each time I want to check out her pages. There are many things I like about her website, mainly that I can get shopping sales that are happening in my state! A lot of times websites will tell you of a great deal and list the sale, coupons, etc. and you go to the store all excited and WHUMP! This item isn’t on sale / the same sale price / or NON EXISTENT! With the coupon lady, you select your state and then your store and BAM! There are sales that are relevant to your area! Her sale preview pages are a love / hate relationship. I love how I can click next to items I want to purchase and then print out the completed list at the bottom to make shopping easier. I dislike that I find her sale / coupon / final price spreadsheet confusing.
 Couponing to Disney – LOVE this site almost as much as Ms. Couponista! What I like here is that she has a list of items for $1 at WalMart and Target! She has much of the same info as Ms. Couponista and The Krazy Coupon Lady, but she shows that your savings can add up to something huge! There are money saving challenges and forums for sharing and support.

Do I need this many?

Nah… the first three are just different versions of the same thing. The last one is one that I find inspiring. It goes to show what you can accomplish by couponing, and, well, I want to go see Pooh Bear.

Another website I’ve recently discovered is Coupon Cleanout. This webpage, hosted by Celeste, fulfills a specific need. It tells people when they can throw out complete inserts. You see there is a faction of couponers who leave their coupon inserts complete until they need a specific coupon out of it. Then they go to their inserts, find the correct date (every insert has a date on the spine), clip their coupon and go shopping!

I don’t do this, but I have thought about it…I’m fairly obsessed with my clear coupon holders…

Anywho, with individual coupons it is very easy to see exactly when a specific coupon expires. With a complete insert, not so easy – so how do you know when all the coupons inside are expired? You go to the Coupon Cleanout, select your state and go down the list. The website is FREE (a coupon clipper’s favorite word), easy to use, and gives you places to “recycle” your expired coupons to people who can still use them, namely the service families living on military bases overseas.
If you want to know how I put it all together, I will “show” you in my next couponing installment…with pictures and everything!

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How I Coupon Like a (kinda) Sane Person

Have I mentioned I’m slightly OCD?

No?
Well, SURPRISE!, I am.

I’m not the type of OCD that has to wash my hands over and over, nor do I touch my food to my chin before eating it (okay, so maybe occasionally, but not that much!).

I’m the type of OCD that tends to have to do certain things in a certain order, especially when I grocery shop (or decorate a Christmas tree).

I always start in the same place in the store, I always shop for my groceries in the same order, items are organized in the cart by size, container and content, and they go on the conveyor belt for checkout in a specific order (heavy stuff up front and smushables in the back) with like items grouped together.

There is very little as frustrating to me as shopping with my children in tow – a not just ’cause they whine and pick at each other – in this case it’s ’cause they do things like grab the bread by squeezing it in the middle then putting it just behind some bottle of something that is most likely going to fall over on smushing it even more.

However, I digress…I am a checkers dream, until I get out my coupons.

I like my coupons, I LOVE my coupons!

You might be thinking that I’ve jumped onto the “extreme couponing” trend, but you’d be wrong! I’ve been couponing for years! I’ve always been a fan of couponing, but when I got married I brought it to a whole new level.

The Ranger is the king of the couponing! He taught me how to get the most out of my coupons. When Big came home from the hospital we had something like 600 diapers that he got from Toys’R’Us for FREE!

I swear there were stores in our area that had his face on an “UnWanted” poster of customers they tended to lose money on. He’s walked out of stores with free groceries. He’s walked out of stores with them paying him money. He rocks!

However, I am now the Queen of our coupons! M-whahahahahahahaha!

I had never heard of the term stockpiling and I have no plans to ever really do that. I say no plans, ’cause I’m a bit OCD and once I get going on this it’ll probably get out of hand. I had a scathingly brilliant idea about couponing and we all know how that usually goes dreadfully wrong.

Those extreme couponing shows give lots of great ideas, but frankly some of those people scare me a little (all while being secretly jealous of how awesome they do on the whole shopping for free thing).

There are the things they don’t tell you – you have to PAY those coupon clipping services and you have to PAY for the ink and paper for your printer and most stores WILL NOT allow you to use that many coupons (they either limit the number of “like” coupons or the number of those coupons they will double).

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll show you how my Sissy and I coupon in a totally sane way (i.e. in a way to help your family without creating a stockpile that makes you look like a candidate for Hoarders!

In the meantime, I’ll give you a glimpse of what I managed this last Sunday…

This is what I got from Walgreens last Sunday morning – 1 pkg. Ritz crackers, 1 – 6 roll pkg. Scott Natural paper towels; 1 Neutrogena sunblock spray; 3 boxes Puffs tissues; 1 – 50 ct. Advil; and 4 Act II individual microwavable popcorns. After coupons and savings I paid 13.94. I received a $2.00 Catalina coupon to use on my next visit. I saved $20.97. YEAH ME!

If you have any favorite websites, or tips you want to share just pass them on to me and I’ll be happy to work it in somewhere!

Biscuits for Big

I am perplexed.

It is not an unusual state for me, but still…

When I was growing up, we lived in the middle of nowhere – Pop. 52 if you included the cows. We participated in 4-H. We had cows, we had chickens; I had a pig. Her name was Pennellippy. Together we won a Blue Ribbon for having a good attitude. Together we won Best of Show because she was AWESOME. I was happy she was sold as a sow rather than bacon.

I digress.

Middle of nowhere kids do things like 4-H.

So, we moved to Tennessee. We live in town. We have no cows, chickens or pigs. We have a fat cat and a skinny cat. We have ants. We are doing 4-H. Rather Big and her entire 5th grade class in her CITY school district are doing 4-H. I’m perplexed. I’m happy about it, but confused.

Anywho, this year Big has written a speech about someone she admires (the Ranger), she has taken photographs (she received a red ribbon at the county level for this photo – I’m so proud),

…she has recycled an old soup can into something functional (a pencil holder), and most recently she has baked biscuits.

Please keep in mind that Big can make a mean bag of microwave popcorn, microwave pancakes, microwave hot dogs (do you see a theme here?); but the conventional cooking lessons have not really happened yet. The girl is only 10!

So, first we are a bit intimidated. We just moved to the South, an area renowned for their biscuits! We did what any self respecting non-cook would do, we glanced at the pop can biscuits and slowly moved away before we could be tempted to use those!

I searched for a recipe that looked beginner-ish, then together Big and I made the initial batch of biscuits. It was a slow process with me demonstrating and her doing. It was really hard not to take it over, but I just took a deep breath and stepped back.

She was over the moon when she came home to tell me that she was one of three students in her classroom to be chosen to move on to the county level competition. So, we marked our calendar for the due date and went about our merry business.

Then we went to Atlanta. Then we came home. Then we went roller skating with the rest of the D.A.R.E. graduates. Then I realized that the biscuits were supposed to be submitted the next morning! Then I realized that I didn’t have all the ingredients we needed! Did you know that at 8 o’clock at night, lemon juice is an acceptable substitute to cream of tartar?

So I observed. I moved Baby out of the way. I gave suggestions. I poured the new gallon of milk so we wouldn’t have to clean it up.

But, in the end, Big has some perfectly edible (although slightly tart) biscuits to turn in. We haven’t heard back from the county competition yet, but we’re not that concerned. Big was happy to make biscuits and I was happy that I managed to observe and not take over the project.

Country Biscuits Supreme (from Gooseberry Patch: Comfort Foods cookbook, pg. 67).

2 C all-purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cream of tartar (or lemon juice)

2 tsp sugar

½ C shortening

2/3 C milk

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk; stir until just moistened (this was where I added lemon juice). Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently for about 30 seconds. Roll out to ½ in thick; cut with biscuit cutter. Arrange biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden. Makes 12 to 15 biscuits.

How to Make a Baby Quilt

When I was pregnant with Baby I wanted to make her a quilt. I wanted her to have something to pass down that had been made by her Mama.

I can’t really sew decided to make just plain quilt squares. Then I saw something on Ebay that would make my quilt fabulous! Someone was selling pre-made quilt squares with Baby Ballerinas in the center!

SOOOO cute!

SOOOO sweet!

SOOOO much nicer than I could ever make myself.

I bought those cutie patootie squares! And I can’t really sew sent them to my Mama to make a baby quilt.

Then. I. Had. A. Scathingly. Brilliant. Idea!

FYI, if you’re ever around and I tell you that I have a scathingly brilliant idea…RUN! It’ll probably be trouble.

I decided that I would make her a big girl quilt that would stay with her from the time she moved into her first big girl bed until she got married and then she would use it for her baby! I would learn how to make a quilt!

So, I started collecting fabric to make the sweet, little quilt that I had always wanted to make for Baby. Some people, the Ranger included, would say that I was just using this project as an excuse to be a quilt store stalker!

Baby is now almost 7 and that quilt never really got made. Oh, I had the fabric. I just can’t really sew didn’t have the time to cut the squares and sew it all together. And, now, Baby is too old for the quilt I had planned. What was I to do?

Then. I. Had. A. Scathingly. Brilliant. Idea!

I had a friend who was having a baby girl! PERFECT! I would make the quilt for her new baby! Then, I moved. Then I finished graduate school. Then I ran out of excuses to procrastinate putting this quilt together.

So, I gathered my fabric, and realized that I no longer had the template that I needed cut the new squares to match the ones I had cut long ago (roughly almost 7 years ago).

I had 2 large wall panels of the Baby Ballerina fabric. I figured make a two-sided quilt with a panel in the center and smaller squares (nothing fancy) around it. That was what I had planned. It didn’t quite work out that way.

First I cut all my fabric into squares, then I realized it might have been a good idea to find out how many of squares I would need to make a baby quilt. I now have LOTS of extra squares. Anyone making a quilt and need squares? Anyone?

I had no clue how big a baby quilt should be? It probably would have been too easy to go upstairs and get one of the old baby quilts someone had given my girls. Nope, I have to do things the hard way so I bought a pattern that said, “Baby Quilt.”

For your reference, these patterns don’t really tell you how big the quilt should be. You need to cut two of these, and four of those and then appliqué six of the other thing.

I decided to lay out my pieces and see how it looked. I figured I could always add more squares if I needed to. I needed to.

In the end there was a small quilt, that when you don’t look very closely is quite cute! If you look closely you might see that I can’t really sew the squares on the bottom of the quilt are shorter than the ones on the top.

If you look closely you might see that the squares don’t really line up very well.

If you look closely you might see that the back isn’t a mirror of the front like I had planned.

So, whatever you do…don’t look close!

How to Make Bean Soup – Domestic Pretender

The Domestic Pretender struck again recently. I knew the weather was going to be crummy cold, so I thought I would make soup – from scratch – not out of a can that says “add water.”

I was perusing one of my many cookbooks last week and stumbled upon a recipe for bean and bacon soup. I like bean and bacon soup. The Ranger likes bean and bacon soup. The kids wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole! So, I decided to use this crummy snow as an excuse to whip up a fabulous soup recipe! I even put the ingredients on my grocery list so I would have everything I needed. Un-huh, EVERYTHING! (We’ll get back to that “everything” later).

I looked at the recipe and noticed that it called for tomato sauce. Hmmm…the Ranger isn’t really big on tomatoes, maybe I’ll use chicken broth. (I have a tendency to switch out stuff we don’t like. I’m not exactly sure, but I think this could be one reason my recipes have issues).Then I noticed the recipe called for carrots. Carrots and green peppers? In bean and bacon soup? Crazy, but, sure, whatever. Now, I’m a planner in life and in cooking (to a point) I like to get my ingredients ready all at once and then start cooking.

So I gathered the usual suspects for bean and bacon soup – bacon (yummmmmmm) and beans (duh), carrots, onions, garlic, green pepper, and chicken stock.

Then I noticed something – problem #1: I forgot to refrigerate my green pepper and it was all wilty and smushy (EW!). So, I throw out the green peppers and head for the pantry where I have stashed cans of tomatoes with diced green peppers and onions. Sorry, Dear, out with the chicken stock and back in with the tomato sauce. I’m sorry, I can’t, in good conscience, mix diced tomatoes and chicken stock. I’m sure there are those who can make those two ingredients taste good together, but I am not that person.

Problem #2: I didn’t have EVERYTHING that I needed. No tomato sauce! WHAT! I’ve already dumped in the diced tomatoes! We’ve already discussed adding chicken stock to diced tomatoes! I just can’t do it! BUT I did have tomato paste. And what is tomato sauce but soupy tomato paste, right? I added my tomato paste and some water to make it soupy. Worked for me!

I cooked the bacon.

And then I tasted it. I had to be sure it was cooked just right to crumble. I wasn’t sure, so I tasted a few more pieces…

I chopped my garlic, seems my garlic press disappeared somewhere in the whole moving thing. Personally I think the kids liked the way it flipped back and forth and stole it. Then, I chopped my carrots, and last my onions. I always chop my onions last because I don’t like the idea of cutting off any fingers while I’m sobbing through my onions. I dumped them in the post and cooked them up a little bit and then I started adding the cans of stuff. At first it seemed almost like a pantry can soup. You know – a can of this and a can of that. But I guess the chopped veggies counted to make it just plain ol’ soup.

I added everything except the bacon and let it simmer together for a good while. (Probably about 20 minutes or so). Then I tasted it. It tasted like canned beans. I don’t like the taste of canned beans. Please don’t take this to mean that I make beans from a bag. It is physically impossible for me to make beans from a bag. I can’t do it. I know, I know…can’t never could. But let’s be honest here, anyone who has seen me cook would not be at all surprised to know I can’t make bagged beans. No matter how long they soak they are as hard as pebbles. I always use canned beans, but I hate the way canned beans taste unless they’ve been drained, rinsed over and over again. This recipe called for “undrained” beans, so I followed the recipe.

Here is where I really left the recipe. From this point on I know what I added, but I have no idea the measurements. First I added some beef bouillon, a little better. Then I added some chili powder, a little better. Then I added more chili powder, getting to be edible. Then I started wishing I had tobacco (refer back to having EVERYTHING…NOT!). Then I added the bacon, and I have to say that it’s amazing what some nice crispy bacon can do for a recipe.

The Ranger wasn’t so sure. He looked at the bowl rather suspiciously, but agreed to eat some. He is not a fan. He had to eat around the carrots and tomatoes.

So, here I was with a nice big pot of bean and bacon soup and no one to eat it but me.

I ate it for lunch for a week! I’m more than a little tired of bean and bacon soup. And, when I want some I’ll probably head to the store and buy a can of the stuff. ‘Cause frankly this recipe just isn’t for me. However, if you like a vegetablely bean and bacon soup here is the recipe:

Bean and Bacon Soup*

½ lb bacon cooked to be able to crumble

3Tbs. bacon pan drippings

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 green pepper, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, pressed

3 C. water

8-oz can tomato sauce

2 – 16 oz cans kidney beans

Hot pepper sauce to taste

Heat reserved drippings in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion, carrot, green peppers and garlic until tender. Add water, tomato sauce and undrained beans. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Stir in reserved bacon and hot sauce to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

*This recipe comes from p. 67 of the Gooseberry Patch Comfort Foods cookbook.

The Domestic Pretender Attempts Doughnuts

My Mother-in-law is Rose.

Rose can cook!

My poor husband has come down in the world since he married me, I can kinda cook.

Rose is known in her family as the keeper of certain family recipes, among them are doughnuts.

About once a year, the family would spend a Sunday afternoon in Rose’s kitchen rolling, cutting, frying and sugaring dozens of doughnuts.

Now we are in TN and Rose is in PA and that makes doughnut making a bit tricky.

You see, Rose has the recipe in her head, eyes and hands. Rose learned this recipe from her mother and knows what the mixture contains and what it should feel like when mixed.

Rose was nice enough to try to write it down for me once, but I’ve never tried the recipe myself. Rose has always done the ingredients and mixing.

I was going to make this recipe last weekend, but there was nary a doughnut cutter available in any store near me that was open when the Ranger pointed out that one of the necessities of making doughnuts was a doughnut cutter. In TN there are biscuit cutters aplenty, but not one with the extra hole doo-hickey that I needed to make the “chokers” (doughnut holes). So, I spent a couple days this last week searching high and low; and, after a rather humorous visit to a restaurant supply store where I was assisted by the owners’ very unknowledgeable gracious spouse and his friends, I am the proud owner of a doughnut cutter.

So, I gathered the usual suspects – flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, milk, eggs, baking powder, and melted lard (yes, I said LARD!) and my apron (the Domestic Pretender is messy and always wears an apron) and began.

First I put the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

And then I started adding the wet ingredients.

Here the recipe gets fun (if you like making mud pies)

You mix the whole thing BY HAND!

Spoons are cheating and to quote Rose, “You won’t know if the consistency is right if you can’t feel what you are mixing.”

So I mixed it up, then took the whole shebang to the Ranger and said, “Taste this.” He just looked at me funny. “Taste it! You know how it should taste.” He still looked at me weird. The man makes home-made Orange Julius’ complete with raw eggs, but blanches at eating raw cookie dough or in this case doughnut dough. I got the nod of approval so I headed back to the kitchen.

I pulled out a Dutch oven and emptied an ENTIRE container of vegetable shortening into it and put it on a burner to melt. From this point on I was on my own. The recipe card stopped at the instruction of “use shortening to fry.” I had ingredients, I had a cutter, I had shortening, and nothing else except years of following orders in Rose’s kitchen.

The general idea is that you fry them until they are brown on each side then stick them on a towel to drain for about, ohhhhhh… two seconds, then plop them into a paper bag of powdered sugar. The powder sugar is usually the kids’ job, but they got bored after a few minutes and left it to us.

But, the end result is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself!

A nice cakey doughnut smothered in powdered sugar. I know I heard the Hallelujah Chorus when I snitched a bite! Looks good, huh?

Let’s look at that again.

The Ranger says they are pretty darn good, but not quite like Mom makes.

I think I’m going to try something else next weekend. I’m not sure what it will be yet, but I’m sure it’ll be another adventure of the DOMESTIC PRETENDER!

Smells Fishy

I love to cook! Notice I didn’t say, “I am a great cook!” My Dad used to regale his coworkers with my cooking exploits when I was learning to cook. I once won a contest for the worst tasting cake by the smell that it emitted when cut open. My Dad didn’t realize I had made it that way on purpose and choked down a HUGE piece before I could stop him. He was relieved that I didn’t expect him to finish the cake.

Now, my family is rather picky about food so I tend to stick with a few recipes that almost everyone will eat in one form or another. Every once in awhile, I go to my collection of cookbooks (I love to read cookbooks!), pull one off a shelf and get inspired. Many of these cookbook experiments end with, “Honey, we are going out for supper!”

This time I thought I had found something that the Ranger would LOVE! (Notice I didn’t say something that the entire family would love)- A copycat recipe for Long John Silver’s fish. When I met the Ranger, Long John Silver’s was one of his favorite food groups. I grew up on the coast. I know fish, I like fish, but fish don’t like me. My girls like fish, they like them in the aquarium but not on their dinner plates.

So, wanting to do something for my hubby (I sure do love him!) I decided to make the fish.

First problem, I needed cod. I live in Western Tennessee and unless you are in the mood for catfish, you can’t get fresh fish. It took me two stores before I found some frozen. Got it! The second problem, the recipe called for soy bean oil. Mama, say what? I haven’t gotten that look from a grocery store clerk since I asked someone to help me buy a can of beer a few weeks ago (but that’s another story). I settled for canola oil. Third problem, did I mention the fish was frozen and it needed to be cut into pieces. I planned to make the fish on Saturday, but defrosting didn’t go the way I pictured and we had frozen pizza while the fish finished defrosting in the fridge over night.

So I made Faux Fish on Sunday. The ingredients were pretty easy to throw together AND there was the perk of getting to use my mixer. The mixer was excited to see me too, it usually only sees the light of day during the holidays when I am baking cookies (I am a great cookie maker!).

I think I overheated my oil because it splattered EVERYWHERE! I used one of those handy spatter screens and it splattered through the screen! The fish smelled fishy, the batter smelled battery and the oil smelled oily; but the end result looked pretty good. The Ranger liked it! The kids liked the fact that I let them eat something else. I’m not sure if I’ll make this fish again, it’s pretty messy (or maybe it’s just me that’s pretty messy).

I think next weekend I’ll attempt to make Rose’s doughnuts. I’ll let you know how it goes.