Category Archives: Coupons

Reviewing 4 Top Coupon Apps for Android Phones

Two months ago, I began an experiment with couponing apps for my smartphone.  I downloaded IbottaCheckout 51MobiSaveCoupons.com, and Receipt Hog specifically for their offers and pay-outs.  I also have downloaded store-specific apps (like Walmart’s Savings Catcher and Target’s Cartwheel) that I’ll review at a later date. 

Disclaimer: I am not being paid in any way, shape, or form to review or endorse these apps. I mean, I’m getting deals and offers and such from them like any other user, but the companies behind these services haven’t given me anything special to talk about them. The apps are free to download. 

Sadly, Receipt Hog notified me via email that they do not have any spots currently available and their wait list is long.  Therefore, without further ado, I present to you FOUR of the Top Coupon Apps for Androids.

App Name:  Ibotta

Google Play Rating: 4.25 Stars (209k+ ratings)

Earned in First Month:  $12.65

My Thoughts:

The set-up was very simple and similar to other savings apps’ opening procedures.  I recommend looking over what’s offered before going shopping to match the rebates with other coupons and sales.  I just discovered that you can link your store loyalty cards to “unlock” rewards before you shop; my most frequently shopped store with a loyalty card is not on their list of Preferred Partners.

When you’ve done your shopping and maybe selected other rebates, you select the “Verify Purchases” button.  This leads you through two steps:  Scan Product Barcodes and Take a photo of your Store receipt.  On some items, you will not scan a barcode, like certain produce.  But since most items need to be scanned, this isn’t something you can do from the comfort of your bed or even your desk at work.  Depending on how your kitchen and pantry are set up, it may be easier to get this app going while you’re putting your groceries away.  After you’ve scanned your product barcodes, you’ll use the app to take photos of your receipt.  I have super long receipts all the time since I do bulk shopping and use shopper cards and coupons; this has to be my least favorite part of Ibotta, which has nothing to do with Ibotta and everything to do with lining up the edges and where I left off from the previous photo.

The amount you’ve aggregated in rebates goes into My Balance with which you can transfer cash to a linked PayPal or Venmo account or you can buy gift cards to places like Target, Olive Garden, JoAnn Fabrics, and more.  Of all of these options, your balance must be $20.00 minimum.

Ibotta is all about teamwork.  The social media accounts you link will be checked for “friends” that also use Ibotta, and without you lifting an extra finger, your teammates “work” together to save and earn towards Teamwork levels.  You also are rewarded for inviting friends; currently, if a friend joins Ibotta with your referral code, they receive a $10 welcome bonus and you receive $5.

There are more ways to save, like with Bonus Rebates and completing little challenges that differ each month.  These help you move along towards reaching that $20 threshold.  Without the sign-on bonus and these extras, it looks like it would take me a long time to reach that cash out amount.

Screenshot from my Ibotta account

Pros:  Easy to use; can select frequently visited stores to make finding rebates easier

Cons:  Required to scan product barcodes; like most coupons, these rebates are mainly for name brand or new products, both of which I tend to avoid

Verdict:  KEEP USING

 

App Name:  Checkout 51

Google Play Rating:  4 Stars (47k reviews)

Earned in First Month:  $1.00

My Thoughts:

The set-up was very simple and similar to other savings apps’ opening procedures.  I recommend looking over what’s offered before going shopping to match the rebates with other coupons and sales.

There is a very long list of offers each week that can be refined by selecting categories or stores.  There is not, however, a search bar.  This makes scrolling necessary and tedious.  Frequently, I do not find any offers that suit me.  The offers you “star” are listed, you select the option to take the photo(s) of your receipt, then once you click “finish”, you wait while it uploads.  And wait.  Then you get a congratulatory screen telling you how much you’ve saved.

It says, “You can request a check when your account balance reaches $20.”  This could take a very long time, considering most offers are like coupons and for only 10 or 40 cents. Once you claim a starred offer, you most likely won’t be able to claim it again.  You don’t have to scan the individual items. The receipt-photo-taking process is similar to other rebate and savings apps.

Screenshot from my Checkout 51 account

Pros:  Many options; get a real check

Cons:  Rarely are there offers I’ll use; terminal scrolling to view all offers

Verdict:  DELETE

 

App Name:  MobiSave

Google Play Rating:  3 Stars (2,393 reviews)

Earned in First Month:  $1.55

My Thoughts:

I don’t recall how I even heard of this one, but I liked the idea that I received the benefits of selected offers right away, like if I were using a paper coupon at the checkout.  The set-up was quick and simple.  There is a short list of offers.  After photographing your receipt, you’ll “paperclip” which offers actually apply to that receipt.  Once they’re confirmed, the money saved is sent directly to your PayPal account.

I do bulk shopping so the last time I used MobiSave, I had 6 receipts that were all quite long.  The way this app is set up to capture images of your receipts makes it difficult to know where your last picture ended and your next needs to begin.  In the end, there were 4 offers that applied to me.  There were 4 deposits made to PayPal within an hour.  My first payment from MobiSave was only $.40, but I got it right away without waiting and saving up to a $20 threshold.

Screenshot from my MobiSave account

Pros:  Immediate deposit into PayPal; frequently offered “any type, any size” deals

Cons:  Not many offers; can’t see previous pictures in series when photographing long receipts

Verdict:  KEEP USING

 

App Name:  Coupons.com

Google Play Rating:  4 Stars (18,800 reviews)

Earned in First Month:  $0.00, but I may have saved some by loading deals to my Pay-Less card

My Thoughts:

I have used Coupons.com in the past to select deals and print coupons to present at checkout.  This app allows that as well as linking to your store shopper cards for automatic digital coupons.

You *must* visit the app prior to shopping, not after.  They don’t want to capture your receipt if you have a store loyalty card; they want to provide coupons directly to the card.  Part of the set-up for this app is typing in the numbers on your loyalty cards.  If you are like me, you don’t even have these because you provide your phone number to the cashier.  I use my Kroger Plus card and I frequently use their digital coupons option, so I logged into that account to access my card number to copy-and-paste into this app.

For stores you frequent that do not use loyalty cards, you will submit your receipt after shopping.  When you’ve submitted receipts and they’re accepted, you receive cash back via PayPal.

Coupons.com has a whole slew of other money saving options, like printable coupons and online coupon codes for sites like Overstock and Guitar Center.  I’ve used their printable coupons in the past, from their website and not this app, and can attest to the safety of the printing software they need you to use.  If you use the app to select coupons, you have the option to print or email them.  I do not have a WiFi compatible printer but have emailed myself the link to print directly from my computer.  Check your library for wireless printing if you’d like to use this option.

Although I downloaded and accessed this app the same as the other savings apps, I have yet to use anything off of it.  I don’t use the products they have presented in the time I’ve been doing this little experiment (seven weeks at the writing of this review).

Screenshot from my Coupons.com account, showing what I could redeem with either loading to my loyalty cards or submitting receipts.

Screenshot from my Coupons.com account

Pros:  Many ways to save

Cons:  Lots of offers to scroll through only to discover I won’t use any of them

Verdict:  DELETE but keep visiting the website on my laptop for paper coupons

Embarking on a New Path

One beautiful aspect of this life is that there are no constants. 

Now, for a control freak like me, that concept is always first handled with trepidation.

But when I remember that life isn’t stagnant, that change is necessary for growth and to reach goals, I feel emboldened and blessed as I take the first tentative steps on the new path I see before me.

Independence

The BHE and I are both very intelligent and fiercely independent people.  We both would love nothing more than to live off the grid and thrive on our own efforts and ingenuity.

However, living in this time and place, and having been raised the way we were, we both cling to a few ideas of the modern, connected world.  Like health insurance, adult conversation, and the Internet.  I for one would like to know I have a steady income that includes benefits from a company, at least until my children are a bit more mature.  And our farm is functioning independently.

With independence comes greater responsibility, especially for oneself.  When you are beholden to none, you are more so beholden to yourself and your God.  I care not for the judgement of my peers but rather His view on the quality of my stewardship of His earth and gifts.

So the BHE and I have been talking about our options and alternatives.  I am a SAHM who would love to be a WAHM so, by golly, I gotta be independent and forge a new way.

Please, Lord, show me the next path I must thoughtfully walk upon.

Financial Independence

The goal here is to provide for ourselves, our children, our families, and our friends without depending too much on other people.  Reciprocity is the name of the game, rather than being borrowers to lenders, as that never ends well.*

For now, though, we do have a mortgage(s) and car loan (please don’t get me started on my student loans) and two small children.  We must be smart about our steps towards our end goals.  Which is why the BHE returns to work each day.  Which is why I have begun searching out ways to both save and earn.

If I do not have a steady income as a stay-at-home mom, the least I can do is be a good steward of the money we have been blessed with and use the considerable brain power God gave me to come up with new ways to work towards financial independence.

Saving

I’m known for my budgeting and my coupon-clipping and my bill pay spreadsheets… and my penny-pinching.  I will be the first to raise my hand and admit that I am a tight wad.  For all the hosting I’ve done, I can tell you I have upset a few guests in the past with how tight I hold my fist.

I found some new ways to save, and I plan on writing up my reviews of the apps that are helping me do so.  In fact, a couple of the apps are more than Saving; they cross the line into Making.  It is pretty cool.

If you want to get started on your own, I am using:

Checkout 51
Flipp
Coupons
Ibotta
Every Dollar
MobiSave
Walmart’s Savings Catcher
Target’s Cartwheel
And Payless’s (Kroger) digital coupons

Making

I decided to take it one step further.  Part of my approach to minimalism has been selling as well as donating and trashing the things we don’t need or want.  Now, after the passing of my beloved father-in-law and the subsequent inheritance of all of his shit crap garbage hoarded stuff belongings, we have a major inventory with which to work.  Antiques and collectibles, unopened boxes of supplies and tools, decorative items that have no place in our home, clothing and accessories that fit no one we know… the list goes on.

Thank God for the Internet!**  I have opened both an eBay shop and an Etsy shop as well as have posted items on all Craigslist sites that cover areas within an hour drive of me.  Also, if you didn’t know this, go take a peek at what’s around you in terms of Facebook pages labeled “yard sale” or “ rummage” or “swap”.

Here are some items I have up for sale:

blade.jpgashtraycoke-case

 

Here is the link to my eBay store, DeichMileFeirme, and my Etsy shop, Thoughtfully Sought.

Branding

While you’re online, reading this post and checking out my shops and the various apps I mentioned above, go ahead and check me out in the other corners from which I shine.  See the fun, colorful, crazy, thoughtfully sought path we are treading on my Instagram account.my Instagram account.  Find out what inspires me and what my big project ideas are on my Pinterest account.  Go crazy and LIKE my Facebook page.

If you’re trying to make a little extra on the side (and I do mean a little), start stretching your touch to various parts on the Internet.  There’s so much out there, and what goes around comes around. ***

How have you earned a little extra lately? 

What was the big-ticket item you last saved a ton on? 

If you were going to brag about how little you spent at the grocery, how would you explain how you did it?

 

*Proverbs 22:7 – The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

**Seriously, I think I say that twenty times a day, if not more.

***Hebrews 13:15&16 – Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

Shopping with Purpose (Free Printable!)

I get asked all the time how I do it:  how I save so much on groceries, how I only shop each store only once a month, how I manage my fridge and pantry, how we have the money to host and feed people all the time, how I make it all happen for cheap.

Well, I’m going to tell you how I do it.  Then, I am going to let you try out my method for yourself.  That’s right, honey:  FREE PRINTABLES!  Everyone loves ‘em, lots of people use ‘em.  I made a pretty one just for you.
image

My Method, with You in Mind

First, write out your NEED list.

Example:  I NEED paper towels soon, so even without a coupon or a sale price, I will have to buy a package.  I NEED fresh produce so I’ll look at what’s in season and on sale at each store.

Next, write out your WANT list.

I WANT my husband’s favorite chips, breakfast sausages for the Angel, and yogurt to make frozen treats in this crazy heat.

Third, if you coupon, coupon now.  If you don’t coupon, start.

Since I am a member of Inbox Dollars , I like to go to their site and access Coupons.com through it.  All the same coupons PLUS the bonus of ten cents added to my ID account for each redeemed coupon.  It’s great. 

Once I have all my coupons selected and printed, I sort them with the coupons I may have received with a receipt or in the mail.  I have an accordion folder that’s about 4″ tall where I have the coupons sorted by store, and I put them in by date.  I also have a slot for “manufacture food” and “manufacture dry goods” for the coupons that don’t have to be used at a specific store.  (The other slots in my accordion doohickey that I bought years ago in Target’s Dollar Spot hold rewards cards, receipts, and post-its and a pen if I forget my list at home and need to make another before entering a store.)

Then, check the advertisements for the stores you go to most frequently.

I have an app on my Android phone called Flipp that shows me most of my local sales ads.  I have marked which ones are my “favorites.”

Not all of the stores I like to go to have their ads available through Flipp.  Maybe you get a weekly newspaper, maybe you use a different app, or maybe you turn to Google each week to find what you’re looking for.

Personally, I use Flipp for Kroger, Aldi’s, WalMart, Target, and Fresh Thyme.  There’s a local meat market that I have pinned their website to a folder on my phone dedicated to saving money.

Finally, as I go through each ad, I write down what is on sale that I am interested in.  I mark down next to the items on my NEED, WANT, and COUPON lists which store has the best price.

I also write down things of interest that are on sale but that I don’t necessarily NEED but could possibly WANT in the future.  Or maybe I don’t NEED it now but will someday NEED it.  For instance, I buy cat litter when it is on sale and I buy as much as I can at the time.  Yes, I’ve marched through Target with almost 100 pounds of Tidy Cats in my cart.  It doesn’t go bad, every last grain will be used, and I NEED it so will buy it in bulk to save myself an emergency full-price purchase.

That is how I shop each store once a month; that is how I save money and have extra food and supplies for hosting and donations.  THAT is how you can simplify your shopping and boost your savvy ways.

Typically, I hand-write everything, but since my penmanship is quite sloppy these days, I typed it up just for you.  Yes, you, dear reader.  Check out this handy-dandy PDF for an example of how I do it:

Shopping with Purpose Example

Notes on My Method

To really save with this method, make this into something you do only once or twice a month.  I mean, keep your eye on the weekly ads, but also build up your pantry and freezer so you won’t have to go shopping each week.  You’ll save even more!

Always consider what works best for you, too.  If you have only one item on your list for a certain store, it is not worth the time used and money saved to go to that store.

For instance, we buy our cheese at Walmart.  They carry two pound blocks of Cabot for an unbelievably low price.  It is always on our Walmart list, yet rarely is there anything else we buy there.  When we go to Walmart, we buy as many of those two pound blocks as we can.  No joke.  I’ll spend more than $30 on cheese.  That is so I don’t have to return to Walmart for another month.  In that month, there may be things added to the Walmart list, like Aveeno body lotion (not needed to be purchased too regularly but still best price around for something used almost daily around our house).

Sometimes, Fresh Thyme has a great deal on certain organic produce items that I would really like.  However, if I can get the majority of the produce we regularly eat at Kroger for a better price, I’m not going to a different part of town just to get those pears or whatever. I’d rather (a) go without or (b) buy the darn things for an extra 19 cents per pound.

REMEMBER: The money saved and the time spent sometimes isn’t worth the extra trip.  Don’t drag yourself all over town to save 19 cents per pound.

Especially when we’re talking about loading two kids into car seats and dragging them through stores and making them spend at least an hour and a half in the car since we live in the middle of nowhere.

NEVER FORGET YOUR LIST!  You may forget to put things on your list.  You may not buy everything you did put on your list.  But you will stick to your needs (both at the grocery and in life in general) if you have a list to keep you on track and saving time and money.

Don’t we all want to save time and money?

Now, I have included a lovely little spreadsheet to illustrate what I’m talking about above as an example.  I don’t always have the luxury of sitting down at my computer to type up a clean-looking list like this.  So I print out a bunch of blank pages to scribble on when I have five minutes here, five minutes there to check my pantry, look at my ads, think about our needs and what we have coming up, and calculate if my coupons are worth the 40 cents I’ll save.

For you, you wonderful Thoughtfully Sought path walker, I am including a pretty PDF for you (Yes, YOU!) to print and use at your leisure.

You’re welcome.

Shopping with Purpose Printable

Healthy Eating, part 3: Where to Shop for Organic

I’m going to share with you a few of my favorites, why I shop at a handful of stores instead of just one, what I look for in each of them, and which ones have the best non-sale prices.  I also have some tips for you to get good coupons for the foods you actually eat.

Location Location LOCATION

You may have learned from previous posts that we live in the middle of nowhere.  The closest grocery is 12 miles away, but it isn’t one we frequent.  It is a very small, high priced, kinda unclean chain store like you’d find in any small town in a low population county.  On top of that, because this is a rural area with many farms and old homes with large yards, there isn’t much of a demand for farmers’ markets.  Our best bet is to drive the 40 minutes into the closest city to find the large chain stores and high-traffic farmers’ markets.

Luckily, I am a stay-at-home mom who has the time and inclination to prepare for a day of major shopping.  I take the time to go through all the sale ads, seek and cut all the coupons, plan out a whole day of leaving the house with Angel Baby and hitting all my stores, and stocking up on everything we need in just two or three trips to the city per month.

Not everyone has this luxury.  Not everyone needs it, either.  I mean, if you live in town with a decent (or 3-5 decent) store, you don’t need a whole day like I do.  Well, a whole two days:  the nap on a Thursday for ad-checking and coupon-clipping and the bulk of the day Friday to drive to town then visit three or four stores, including stopping somewhere for lunch.  This is an outing for us, people!

The Stores of the City

The places I regularly shop in my nearby city:  Payless (Kroger)*, Target Supercenter, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, D and R Meat Market, Aldi’s, and yes, WalMart Supercenter.  There are some little “nature’s markets” that I pop into on rare occasions, but they tend to have great local produce options during peak seasons.  (Sometimes Kroger has little signs up around their produce department to inform shoppers that those items are grown by local farmers.)

Online Sale Ads and Coupons

Before you really, truly begin your shopping excursion, take the time to think of all your favorite brands.  Then find their websites (yep, they all have one).  If they have an email list or club or any sort of program, sign up for it.  I regularly get coupons in my emails from Horizon and Kashi**, among others.

Next, consider where you regularly shop and if they have a shopper’s program.  Be signed up for the programs or have the cards.   Then set up your account for that store/program/card online.  For instance, Kroger has their Plus card.  They also have this great benefit where you can load digital coupons to your card from their website.  No coupon clipping!

Then, go to the websites of each of the stores you regularly visit.  Find their weekly (or monthly or seasonal) sale ads.  I haven’t come across a store yet that doesn’t post their ads on their website.  Figure out what day of the week the sale ads change.  For instance, the Fresh Thyme Farmers’ Market nearby has double ad Thursdays where their ads run Thursday to Thursday, overlapping the previous ad for one day.  Target’s ad changes on Sunday and Kroger’s changes on Thursday.  Aldi’s weekly ads start on Wednesdays PLUS has “special buys” for Wednesdays only.  Check all the ads for all your stores on whatever day makes most sense for you.

Last, get your coupons together and organize your shopping list.  This is how I do it:

  1. I write down everything on our “need” list. Then I write down everything on our “stock up list.”
  2. I look through each sale ad and write down the good deals on produce and the things we usually purchase. I keep in mind all the items on the list I already made.
  3. I scan through the digital coupons on the various rewards sites. I check my email for any coupons that may have been sent to me from the companies I signed up for.
  4. I visit Coupons.com where I have an account, and select and print the coupons that correspond with all the above lists.
  5. I write a whole new list where I have the store, what I’ve getting at that store, and what coupons go with that stores’ items… this makes the actually shopping process (with Angel Baby not enjoying the ride in the cart) a heck of a lot easier and faster.

Got it?  Let’s go buy some food!

What and Where

I had a friend*** express confusion over why I would run all over town and spend a whole day going to multiple stores when she can visit just one in an afternoon and get everything she needs… without dragging her kids in and out of their car seats and burning gas and time.

Yes, supermarkets exist.  Sadly, I do not have one of those fabulous stores nearby offering all that we need and want. The first  two parts of this Healthy Eating series ought to have explained plenty about our food preferences…and probably hinted at how you’ve got to search for the good stuff.  This is why I recommend paying attention to your family’s eating habits, what’s in your cupboards, and how much space you really have; then buy in bulk.  Try to purchase at least two weeks’ of groceries at a time to cut down on time spent driving and buying.

No more confusion:  we can’t get what we want and need at one location.  Ergo, all the driving around and spending an hour one day and half of the next day to think about, research about, then purchase our food.  Note that I said “purchase” our food after thinking about it rather than just jotting down a few necessities on a list and rushing off to “shop” at a supermarket.  Healthy Eating = Thoughtful Eating.

If you’ve made it this far into my blog, you know that WalMart doesn’t carry every last little thing we consume.  It may for some people, but not for people as conscientious as us in regards to what we put in and on our bodies.  Without further ado, I present to you a short list of what we get and where I find it for the best prices.

Aldi’s

I am lucky to have two of these in The City, one on each side of town.  They do carry a pretty wide selection of certified organic products, mainly in the dry and canned goods sections.  They do not accept coupons, but their prices are quite low without them.  I like their Simply Nature Organic salsas, marinara, cereals, canned tomatoes, boxed crackers and cookies for Angel Baby, frozen fruits, and boxed pasta.  The almond milk Aldi’s carries is not organic but the best “everyday priced” in town.  Every once in a while, with sales and coupons, Kroger or WalMart has their brand cheaper, but if not, I get mine at Aldi’s.  And I tend to buy 2 to 3 gallons at a time.  If I pay attention to my pantry and fridge space, I can easily go to Aldi’s only once a month to get what I need.  Nothing against their produce in quality, I do not by Aldi’s organic produce purely on the fact that it has always been cheaper elsewhere.

D and R Meat Market

It is a local joint. We have learned their sales patterns and know which week (every fifth) they put their ground chuck on sale Buy-5-lbs-Get-1-lb-Free.  We get the same amount of beef, chicken, and pork each visit and know how much will get us through those 5 weeks until the next sale.  We are blessed with a chest freezer that I keep organized (see post about that).

Kroger

They used to keep all of their certified organic stuff in one area, but lately they’ve been moving things out to the rest of the store.  For instance, the cage free and organic eggs are now over with all the other eggs; the organic orange juice they carry is now over with all the other ojs.  The organic produce selection has been slowly getting bigger and better in the years we’ve been thoughtfully seeking healthier foods.  What we buy here all depends on what’s on sale and what I have coupons for (both digital and paper).  I like the regular sales they have on organic cereals, beverages, snacks like tortilla chips and potato chips, and eggs.  They have a great “everyday price” on their organic ketchup, too.  I recently was able to get 5 boxes of Cascadian Farms organic cereals for a little under $2 a box, between their buy-5-get-$3-off sale, one digital coupon, and two paper coupons.  Regularly, one of the major brands of boxed organic macaroni and cheese goes on sale at Kroger 10/$10.  Yes, I buy 10 boxes of it at a time.  I love it and I have a toddler.  Enough said.  (Again, watch their sale ads.  Get your coupons.  Pay attention and you can get your paper goods for great prices using their buy-x-get-x-off.  I think my toilet paper is the cheapest around…for the good stuff!)

Target

Hands down, their condiments are the best priced.  They also have the big brand organic mac and cheese on sale for 10/$10 from time to time, but more often than not, they’ve got it 4/$5 (not the same).  I make the baby wipes we use POST HERE and can say the best paper towel for the job is Target’s Up and Up select-a-size.  This is where Cartwheel comes in handy (if you have a non-Windows smartphone… you can access Cartwheel on a Windows Phone but you will get severely aggravated trying to use it).  Our local Target doesn’t carry organic produce and their other organic items are kinda few and far between.  There isn’t much I buy food-wise from Target anymore.  However, they’ve currently got the best “everyday price” on organic wheat in 5 lb packages (and sometimes Cartwheel has a code for 5% off).

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

Oh, hells, yeah.  This is what I’m talking about.  It is small so easy to navigate without getting exhausted.  They have bulk bins of so many dry goods and a lot are organic options.  Their organic produce hasn’t disappointed me yet.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have one of these nearby, I bet you have Trader Joe’s or some such.  I don’t.  And Fresh Thyme is relatively new to us, but it’s thyming couldn’t have been better!  For real, it was being built around the same time as we started down this thoughtfully sought path.  Talk about serendipity!  Depending on their sale ads, I may or may not go straight to produce then straight to check out.  Sometimes the bulk goods are all 20% off; sometimes their frozen fruit is half off; sometimes they have my favorite chips on sale and I have a coupon.  Just know that for me, this is where I usually get my organic produce and bulk goods like raisins, brown rice, oats, and maybe quinoa or lentils.

WalMart

I’ll keep this short:  cage free eggs, almond milk if I have coupons, Wild Oats salad dressing, Cabot extra sharp cheddar cheese, and organic cereal if it isn’t on sale anywhere else.  They’ve got the best “everyday price” for boxes of Kashi and Cascadia Farms.

Ready?

I know, it’s a lot to take it at once.  Especially if you read all 3 (4) parts of this series in one sitting.  Start with the store you regularly go to, be it a grocery or a supercenter.  Learn their ropes.  Then add another store, like a local meat market or even another supercenter.  Get an idea of how you work around a sale ad then walk through a store.  Get a grasp on what coupons and locations work best for you.

You are on your own thoughtfully sought path; this series is just showing you the path we are on.  Take it slow.  You are breaking a bad habit after all.

Don’t give up.  Don’t get discouraged.  And for the love of God and your miraculous machine of a body, do not tell yourself it isn’t worth it.  It is.  Your body will thank you… and then your mind and soul will recognize how grateful they are as well.  You will be repaid in health and happiness, I promise.

Ok, maybe not “promise.”  My disclaimer:  I’m not a professional, I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not an MD, I’m not a nurse or someone who can give you medical advice… I’m a liberal arts major with a masters in library sciences who stays at home with her toddler and wants the best, most nutritious foods for her family.  That’s all I am:  somebody thoughtfully seeking how to do everything BETTER.

Good luck!

Feel free to leave comments about where you find the best deals and what you’ve learned through trial and error.  Also, I answer questions, so fire ‘em at me.

*Payless is one of the Kroger Company’s babies.  As a girl from Indianapolis, I call them all Kroger.  Most people just get it; others look at me like I’m stupid and actually correct me by saying, “Payless.”  I’m not stupid, I’m stubborn.  (No comments on that sentence, please.)

**Not all of Kashi’s products are organic or nonGMO.  Like I’ve said, READ THE LABELS!

***My SAHM-bestie, to be precise.  Every one who stays home, whether you have kids or you work from home, needs a friend who also stays at home.  This is about maintaining sanity, people, as much as it is about maintaining a social network.

Baby Shower Invites

Busy, busy bee

I have been busy off-line, makin’ and bakin’ and shakin’.  Stay tuned to Thoughtfully Sought to learn all about the hand-made products I’ve been spending my time on, preparing for my new nephew’s arrival.  Here, I’ll talk about the awesome (if I may say so) invites I had a blast making.  Soon, I’ll show you m knitting project and the sewing I’ve been doing.  (“Soon” as in “as soon as the shower happens and my sis opens her presents.”)

Shameless plug:  March for Babies

My sister-in-law, my big brother’s wife, is expecting their second child in less than two months.  I pray every night for a healthy, full-term pregnancy as well as a healthy, love-filled, drama-less birth.  However, not everyone receives that blessing:  nearly half a million babies are born too soon each year.  Each year, I march for babies to help raise funds to support the mission of the March of Dimes.

Every day, thousands of babies are born too soon, too small and often very sick. I’m walking in March for Babies because I want to do something about this. And I need your help.  Please support my walk. Making a secure donation is easy: just click the ‘donate now’ button on this page. Thank you for helping me give all babies a healthy start!  The mission of March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.

Teamwork

As I’ve said in a previous post, I love hosting parties.  I may go overboard with some and be completely selfishly lazy about others, but I enjoy bringing joy into others’ lives.  I really like doing so in my home.  It didn’t work out that way this time, so I’m glad I have two others who really love my sister-in-law to help me host a good time and great shower for my new nephew.

Thanks to Facebook Messenger, these two lovely ladies and I have been able to bounce ideas off each other, including sharing pictures and websites.  And thanks to Pinterest, we could all see what my sis has been pinning to her “Baby” board.  That is how I came up with these great invites!

Being Creative

One of the items pinned to her “Baby” board are cutesy birth announcements she found on Etsy.  That lead me to clicking around Etsy and seeing lots of cute ideas for invites, thank you cards, baby showers, and nursery decorations.  It also lead to me repeatedly thinking, “I could do that.”  My maternal grandmother was an artist and instilled in me at a very young age that I held within me talent like her own…and that was a breathtaking compliment.

I pulled up Publisher on my laptop, clicked around Google Images (where I searched things like “baby fox clipart” and “cartoonish trees”), and spent a handful of naptimes working on these invites.  During one amazingly long Angel Baby nap one day, I finished the color choices, printed, and addressed the envelopes.

And Being Cheap

Another reason I wanted to make my own, and kept repeating, “I could do that,” was the cost of things I kept finding on Etsy.  Why would I pay someone to do what I can do for more than it would take me to do it myself?

It should’ve taken one trip to a craft store, but since I wasn’t paying attention, it took two.  First time, I was at JoAnn’s with a 40% off one item coupon (always check their website before you go shopping).  I grabbed cream-colored envelopes, thinking I was getting an awesome deal on 50 envelopes AND cards.  Nope.  Just envelopes.  Go figure.  The second time I went to a craft store, I had a similar coupon for Hobby Lobby (these are available all the time, and on mobile devices).  So I bought cards.

From previous card-making experiences, I can tell you that the industry standard is to NOT have matching cards and envelopes.  Seriously.  The envelopes are A7 (5.25″ x 7.25″) and the cards are 4.5″ x 6.5″.  If you use Microsoft Office products, you will see that these are also not standard with them.  You’ll have to be particular when you create the documents and again when you print them.

And now, for what you’ve all been waiting for…

I had so much fun making these!  I'd love to do something this crafty for a bit of income.  Y'know, art and passion into a living, God willing.

I had so much fun making these! I’d love to do something this crafty for a bit of income. Y’know, art and passion into a living, God willing.

I found this gem of a rhyme online during my various searches.  Forgive me for not citing my source.

I found this gem of a rhyme online during my various searches. Forgive me for not citing my source.

What do you think?  Have you ever tried your hand at creating invites, thank yous, or the like?  Do you think I should start that Etsy shop I’ve been talking (to myself) about and try to sell these and other personalized cards?  I really am looking for feedback here.

And donations.  Please.  The march is this weekend and I’d love to help as many as possible by raising as much as possible.  Or at least what I’ve challenged myself to raise.

Happy birthday (to me)! How we celebrated my 32 years for under 20 bucks

FREE STUFF!

Did I get your attention with that?  I know that catches my eye.  I like FREE stuff.  Not just any ol’ stuff but food and beverages and clothes that I like… for FREE.

Yes, I treated myself for $4.32. Then spent about $9 to cover what the coupons didn’t.  That isn’t technically FREE but this is what I got:  a fancy coffee from Starbucks, a tasty pastry from Panera, a regular sized bowl of noodles from Noodles & Co. plus a drink, a handful of cute things made from fabric from JC Penney, and chocolates from CVS.  If you count what I spent two days before at Coldstone Creamery, the total spent (not including gas) was $18.57.

And you can do it too!

Follow me, and you’ll get some wonderful goodies for yourself on your birthday.

First, think of what you really like.  Me?  I’m a big fan of food.  Any kind of food will do but the best kind of food is FREE food.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Let’s see… I like Asian foods and drinks, I’m a sucker for desserts and sweets of all kinds, I love wine, I enjoy a good cup of frilly coffee, I’m a big fan of shopping for new clothes, I like good barbeque, I want to spend more time with my husband and friends, and I’d love for someone else to regularly clean my house.

Sadly, no one turned up to clean for me.

Next, pinpoint specific places and people that can deliver what you really like.  Noodles & Co. makes a dish they call Japanese Pan Noodles that I prefer to get with tofu.  Starbucks makes a great caramel macchiato.  Panera has an assortment of pastries while Coldstone Creamery has a million ways for me to enjoy ice cream.  Penney’s is my go-to place for new clothes as I have a store credit card there.  Sadly, there isn’t a decent bbq place under an hour’s drive from where I live.  As for my friends, family, and clean house… well, we’ll tackle those desires another day.

Then, go to the websites of your favorite restaurants, stores, cosmetic products, foods, et cetera.  Just about everything out there has a website and the majority of them have clubs or newsletters or fan lists you can sign up for.  Go ahead, sign up!  See what goodies you get!

Examples (FREE stuff and Almost-FREE stuff):

Noodles & Co. has an eclub, where you sign up for their Noodlegrams. For my birthday, they sent me an email with a coupon for a FREE regular-sized bowl of my choice.  (I chose to add a drink so paid two bucks and change for food and a refillable beverage, which fed and hydrated both myself and Angel Baby.)

I now have a My Starbucks Rewards card that led to me being emailed a coupon for a FREE regular coffee or tea.  Now, this is where things didn’t go the way I planned.  I needed to go to Target while in town and our Target has a Starbucks in it.  Sadly, the emailed coupon from my rewards card was not accepted at the Target’s Starbucks; something about how the ones in stores are actually Target and the code to be scanned could only be scanned at a free-standing location.  That’s cool, though, because on this particular Target trip, I had a coupon from a previous trip where I’d get $1.50 off one of the specialty drinks.  Since I got the littlest size (who the eff named the sizes at Starbucks anyway?!), I only paid two and change for a fancy-schmancy caramel macchiato.  I got my frilly coffee for Almost-FREE.

Before a few weeks ago, I didn’t have a My Panera Rewards membership.  I signed up and immediately got a coupon for a FREE pastry.  That’s it.  It didn’t have to do with my birthday or anything. But check this out:  I had the option to “donate” my treat.  They have this aspect to their program that once you earn something with your points or if you don’t want that first FREE pastry, you can give it back to them to give to someone in need.  How’s THAT for warm fuzzies?

I’ve had a JCPenney credit card as long as I can remember.  Some years, I use it for every last item of clothing, linen, kitchen gadget, et cetera; other years, I won’t touch it once in efforts to pay it off.  (I have a love-hate relationship with credit cards.)  No matter what I spend, every December, I get a coupon for $10-15.  This year, I received two coupons in a mailer (YES!  Snail mail!):  one was FREE shipping on anything to anywhere; the other was $15 off a single item of $15 or more.*  So, like, FREE money?  Thank you, Penneys!  Don’t hold me to this but I’m pretty sure last year I received a mailed coupon for $10 to be used however, no fine print about it being on one thing costing at least $10.

The BHE and I enjoy the Jack Daniels menu at TGI Fridays.  As Stripes club members, we had points plus I received an emailed coupon for my birthday to get a FREE appetizer.  Dinner would have been Almost-FREE, but Angel Baby wasn’t game for behaving in a busy restaurant, so we skipped that.  But, hey, we could’ve had FREE food, leading to a cheap dinner, on my birthday.

I’ve also joined the eclub at Coldstone Creamery so got a coupon for my birthday from them as well.  In my email, I got an offer for BOGO FREE ice cream.  After my father bought us dinner a couple days before my birthday, we dropped into the Coldstone that was just a mile up the road and spent about $4 for waaaay tooooo much ice cream (two of the medium-sized bowls) which we split between the BHE, Angel Baby, and myself.**

Finally, you can have a great day on your birthday for Almost-FREE!  Just do a little clickity clackity on your computer (I did most of mine from my Windows OS phone), gather your coupons (I had others that had been piling up, some for FREE goodies and some were just money off or BOGO—that’s how I got $6 worth of chocolate for $1.98), and head to town. Maybe call a couple friends or plan an evening with your spouse.

Ta-dah!  A cheap and easy birthday!

The bonus:  Angel Baby was such a easy doll all day.  It was like she knew the best present to give me was awesome behavior.  Not that she’s a difficult child by any means; it was just nice that she napped when I needed her to and happily went along with everything I did.

*I needed panties.  Ever since I had Angel Baby, my body has gone through some weird transformations.  I don’t fit the underwear from before nor the ones from during pregnancy.  Anyway, JCP had some great deals like 5 panties for $25… but that isn’t a “single item of $15 or more.”  Grr.  I found in the baby section 4 long-sleeved onesies as one item for $16.99 on sale plus got a few pairs of panties.  My total was around seven bucks.

**Don’t discount FREE meals purchased by someone else.  I’m not suggesting you take advantage of anyone.  Your friends and family love you, they offer to buy you lunch or dinner, you say yes and enjoy a meal and their company, and you got something for FREE.  Be grateful, but don’t abuse it.  😉  I got FREE dinner out of my father, and a couple girlfriends had bought lunch for Angel Baby and myself a few weeks before.  I’m grateful for their company as well as the food. Thanks again, ladies!