Monday, September 20, 2010

Provident Living: My Favorite Online Coupon Sites

I have never been a big coupon user but now that we are ensconsed in a recession and I'm in a frugal living mode, I have started couponing in a small way, cutting or printing coupons for things that I normally buy.  It's becoming a game to me and I'm always excited when I save a few dollars. 

In addition, when I'm planning on going shopping, I type into my search engine the name of the retailer + coupon code (for example:  Old Navy + Coupon Code.)  The other day I saved 30% at Old Navy by doing this.  It only took a few seconds to find the coupon and I saved a bunch of money.  Some stores do not accept online coupons so before you make a trip to the store, ensure they will use your coupons.  Here are my favorite online coupon sites.  Please feel free to comment if you know of other good sites.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Provident Living: Become a Grocery Store Guru and Save! Save! Save!

My friend, Anissa, is a grocery store guru.  I consider her a "coupon queen" because she often gets things free or for a fraction of the original cost.  With her help and expertise, many women in our church congregation are becoming shrewd shoppers.  I invited her to share some of her wisdom with us and write an article about saving money on groceries.  Enjoy!

Savvy Grocery Store Saving Strategies
by Anissa Telle

I am what most would call an extreme couponer. It is not unusual for me to buy 16 to 20 of a single item if I can get it for free or very cheap. One caveat I practice is awareness of shelf life and whether the product is something my family likes. The last thing I want is to end up with items that spoil before we use them or are not appealing for my family, so I do exercise caution before stocking up!

I maintain an awareness of sale cycles and try to buy enough to ensure that I never have to pay full price for an item and to make certain that I have the quantity needed to tide us over until the next sale.

My family for the most part is not brand loyal to anything with just a few exceptions. By saving on staples I am able to have room in my grocery budget to splurge on excellent produce and other specialty items not typically found in those who have similar limited grocery budgets.

I don’t advocate my shopping methods for everyone. I do think that everyone can cut some grocery expenses by just having a better awareness of sale cycles and being more purposeful in grocery shopping.

For example, we have just gone through the back to school grocery specials. Did you know that this is the time of year that oatmeal is at its lowest price of the year? Similarly, breakfast cereal, juice boxes and lunch time snacks were also at the lowest price of the year. I don’t give my children many juice boxes as I prefer to fill up their personal bottles and limit waste but I did get several boxes for picnics, soccer snacks, and the occasional lunch box treat. Paired with a coupon from the Sunday coupon inserts or online coupon sources resulted in free packages of Apple & Eve juice boxes.

Some upcoming sales are holiday baking items. Butter, flour, sugar and chocolate chips will all be at a large discount. Consider stocking up. Most items can be frozen. If you are unsure just do a google search and you will find out the shelf life and recommended methods. Hams and Turkeys will also be at great prices – usually under $1 a pound. You can and should buy a few extra if you have the freezer space. These are great protein sources way below my personal price point of less than $2 a pound for meat! The point here is that just like any other consumer good groceries have a sale cycle – learn it and your grocery budget will benefit!

You wouldn't go on a date without spending a little time to get ready. Grocery shopping deserves no less! Everyone needs to come up with their own shopping preparation plan that fits in with their lifestyle, but here are some suggestions to get you started:

• Don't just go blindly to the store. Look at the sales ads first to see which stores have the best sales that week for the items you need. Then write a list for the items that are on sale so you don’t forget.

• Try and plan your meals around what is on sale and what you have in your storage. (This means that you should try to come up with a menu BEFORE going to the store!)

• Check your pantry and food storage before you leave to see what items you are short on to minimize trips to the store. (This saves on time and gas!)

• A stocked pantry will help prevent impulse purchases. A great example is having powdered milk for cooking – even if you don’t drink it this is great to have to prevent last minute trips to the store to just get milk. Very few of us are disciplined enough to just buy milk and we then end up with unplanned purchases.

• Learn to read the price sticker near each item. It shows the name of the item, the size, the retail price, and cost per unit (by pound, ounce, liter, gallon or quart.) Don't assume the bigger package is a better deal. Consider the unit price on the shelf tag and buy what goes on sale. Often, a smaller size costs pennies or is free with a coupon. (In fact, when you are coupon shopping, the smaller item that has been put on special for the week is going to win over the larger bulk size every time.)

• When you are comparing costs, look at the high and low shelves as well as those in the middle. The more expensive brands are often displayed at eye level, with the cheaper or sale items placed where you have to bend or stretch. Manufacturers pay slotting fees to get items at eye level so don’t be afraid to compare using unit prices!

• Go through your coupons prior to going shopping and pull the coupons for any items that are on sale. Place these together in the front pocket of your coupon organizer.

• Budget each week to buy multiples of at least one item that is on INCREDIBLE sale – this is called a loss leader... (an item reduced drastically to get you to come to their store... this is how you can build your food storage).

• Everything that goes on sale will come on sale again within about 8-10 weeks. It is a rotation process, so if you stock up on enough of the item to last that long, you will be able to re-stock at sale prices. Once you get into this you will find that you almost always have everything you use on hand, and you rarely have to pay full price for anything. (This is also a great way to start your food storage.)

• Know what you spend the most on. Keep a list of the items you buy regularly and track the prices over a three-month period by creating a price book. Then you can buy when they reach the bottom of the range.

• Be flexible with brands. If you want to save hundreds of dollars a year on an item, buy the brand that's on sale (or has a coupon or both.)

• Be flexible with ingredients. If the price of the vegetable or other item you wanted is high, don't have your heart set on it so badly that you are not ready and willing to choose something else.

• Buy seasonal produce. This is the cheapest and best way to get great produce for your family. You should also look for long-lasting vegetables, like cabbage and carrots, so you have time to cook with them before they spoil. "Anything you throw away, that’s the most expensive food you buy."

• Bags of produce are usually less expensive per pound than loose produce.

• Meat extenders such as rice, potatoes, pasta, dumplings, and grains can help stretch a meal.

• Don't think that you can always buy it cheaper at a warehouse club. Meat, frozen fruit, frozen vegetables and non-grocery items are often a good buy there but most other name-brand merchandise can be had even cheaper on sale at a major grocery chain.

• Some items are just cheaper regular price at one store than they are at sale price at another. Aldi’s is a good example of this. There are many basic items that I pick up here because they generally don't go on sale (or at least they don't go on sale for less than Aldi’s charges for them.)

• Always, Always, Always check the scanner prices as the cashier scans everything. Often the computer makes an error which can cost you. If you don't think it is worth bringing it up for some cents, think again. Some stores have scanner guarantee's which promise you correct prices or you get an incentive. The little amounts that you let pass can add up to quite a bit in the course of a year.

• Avoid frequent trips to the store. If you’re running to the grocery store every day, you’re not planning your grocery shopping. Unplanned shopping doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the sales and coupons that can make your groceries so much cheaper. Try to keep these grocery trips down to a minimum so that you aren’t making hasty choices with your grocery budget.

• Use up what you have – First In, First Out Principle. On Frugal sites they call this Eating Down the Fridge/Freezer Challenge. This helps if you sometimes end up with food in the fridge or pantry that you may have forgotten about. Plus, you have already paid for these items so it makes sense to incorporate them into your meals.

• Use your leftovers – keep a healthy fridge and use up extra ingredients in future meals. Leftover nights, enjoying last night’s dinner for tomorrow’s lunch, soups, smoothies and casseroles are all great ways to ensure you are not wasting anything!

Don’t feel the need to implement all of these suggestions at once. Even a small change in your current grocery shopping method will help in this economy where everyone is trying their hardest to spend less and save more. The last thing I want is for anyone to become disappointed or overwhelmed. So, start small and once a particular tip is implemented, add another one and watch your savings add up!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Provident Living: Homemade Kid Fun!

We all want to keep our kids entertained.  Why not save money and make your own fun?  Enjoy these homemade recipes for Bubbles, Crystal Gardens, Edible Play Dough, Face Paint, Finger Paints, Sidewalk Chalk, and Slime. 

  • 1/4 cup liquid dishwashing detergent
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
Put the dishwashing detergent in the water. Carefully stir in sugar, trying to avoid suds. Take a regular drinking straw and cut into 4 pieces. Then dip into the solution and blow your bubbles. Tie a rope loop up to a foot in diameter on the end of a stick and make a gallon of bubbles. Dip the rope in the bubbles and run with them. This will give you giant bubbles.

Crystal Gardens
  • Bluing 
  • Ammonia
  • Salt
  • Liquid food coloring
  • Water
Day #1: Place damp sponge pieces in a shallow glass or plastic bowl. Over sponge, pour 2 Tbsp. each of bluing, salt, water and ammonia.

Day #2: Add 2 Tbsp. salt.

Day #3: Add 2 Tbsp. each bluing, salt, water and ammonia. Avoid pouring on crystal growth.

Repeat Day #3 as needed to keep crystals growing. For color, add drops of food coloring.

*Bluing can be purchased in the laundry section at the store.
Edible Play Dough
  • 1/3 cup margarine
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or flavorings
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • food coloring (optional)
Face Paint

Mix first 4 ingredients together. Add powdered sugar. Knead it. Divide and add food coloring. Keep refrigerated to keep from spoiling when not in use. You can replace vanilla with flavored extracts to give flavor other than just plain sweetness.
  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • ½ tsp. water
  • ½ tsp. cold cream
  • food coloring 
Mix all ingredients together in an old muffin pan and you are ready to paint. This amount makes one color.

Finger Paints
  • 1 pkg. unflavored gelatin 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ cup cold water liquid dish detergent
  • ½ cup cornstarch food coloring
Dissolve gelatin in ½ cup water. Set aside. In a saucepan add cornstarch then slowly stir in 1 ½ cups water until well blended over medium heat. Cook until it boils, becomes smooth, thickens and turns clear. Add gelatin mixture and stir well. Pour into containers and add a drop of liquid dish detergent. Add food coloring until you get the desired shade. Store covered in the refrigerator 4 - 6 weeks.
Sidewalk Chalk
  • 2 qts. plaster of Paris
  • Food colors
  • Water 
Mix plaster of Paris with 1 quart water. Mix in desired color. Pour into paper towel or toilet paper tubes (about 3 inches high). Let dry thoroughly (This may take several days). Remove from tubes and let the kids draw away.

  • 1/2 cup white glue
  • 6 Tbsp. water
  • Food coloring
  • 1-4 tsp. Borax
  • 1-4 Tbsp. water
Mix the glue, 6 tablespoons water and food coloring until the glue is dissolved. In a separate bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon borax into 1 tablespoon water. Add to the glue solution. You will get a very thick clump of slime when the two mix. Pull the clump of slime out of the glue mixture and put it in a separate bowl. Mix another batch of the borax solution and add to the remaining glue mixture. Repeat until all the glue mixture is used (about 3-4 times). With clean hands, knead the slime to get it to mix. This will take about 10 minutes and is not very difficult as the slime easily separates between your fingers. If you desire a looser, more slimy texture, knead in a bit more water. The more water you add, the slimier it gets. The Slime doesn't leave a residue and doesn't get stuck on anything. This is great for Halloween entertaining. Store in an airtight container. This can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cooking with Basic Food Storage: Pumpkin Brownies using Whole Wheat Flour

It finally feels like fall today.  With the cooler weather, I start craving pumpkin.  So I thought I'd share a tasty recipe that utilizes whole wheat flour and canned pumpkin from my food storage.  This brownie recipe incorporates pumpkin and warm autumn spices in a cakey brownie recipe with chocolate chips. What could be better for Halloween, Thanksgiving or anytime you're in the mood for pumpkin? It is the perfect party food for your next holiday gathering or bake sale. Be sure to store these delicious brownies in an air-tight container with a piece of bread. That will keep them soft and delicious.

Pumpkin Brownies

1-1/4 cup white whole wheat flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup dark chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips (I use whatever I have on hand)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl. Add pumpkin puree, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla extract to dry ingredients. Mix well. Fold in chocolate chips.  Spread into prepared pan and bake on center rack of oven for 30-40 minutes.  Frost if desired.

Source:  Stephanie Gallagher,

Monday, September 6, 2010

Financial Preparedness: Preparing to Finance Our Kids' Higher Education

I teach the 16-18 year old girls at church and several of "my girls" are headed off to college this week.  It's made me consider how I'm going to finance my kids' college or IF I will finance their education.  Of course, we have been putting money away in preparation for our kids' schooling but I'm not certain that I want to pay for everything.  During my college days, I saw far too many of my fellow students blow their educational opportunity because they took it for granted.  Instead of studying and attending class, they partied, stayed out too late and slept through lazy days financed by their Mom and Dad.

I read an excellent article yesterday in the newspaper in which the writer explained that he pays for half of his kids' college costs.  He said many people balk at this and say, "How can you do that to your kids when you can afford to pay it in full?"  In my opinion, it's a very wise decision.  He used the analogy that by making his children pay for half, they had "skin in the game" and would thus make their money count by working harder.  The article made a lot of sense to me.  Both my husband and I graduated from college.  In addition, my husband completed two graduate degrees.  I was well-prepared at home for school because my parents emphasized the importance of education and taught me to work hard in school.  This focus on academics helped me to obtain scholarship money.  My husband and I paid for our university experience with the help of scholarships, grants, loans (for grad school) and by working.  I believe we took our education much more seriously because we were paying for it ourselves.  I also feel that having to work helped me to be more disciplined in studying outside of class because I only had a designated time to do it. 

What's your opinion?  How can we prepare providently for our childrens' higher education?

Preparedness Quotes

"When faced with the choice to buy, consume, or engage in worldly things and activities, we all need to learn to say to one another, 'We can’t afford it, even though we want it!' or 'We can afford it, but we don’t need it—and we really don’t even want it!'" - Elder Robert D. Hales, April 2009 General Conference

"Many areas of the world have experienced difficult economic times. Businesses have failed, jobs have been lost, and investments have been jeopardized. We must make certain that those for whom we share responsibility do not go hungry or unclothed or unsheltered. When the priesthood of this Church works together as one in meeting these vexing conditions, near miracles take place.

"We urge all Latter-day Saints to be prudent in their planning, to be conservative in their living, and to avoid excessive or unnecessary debt."
- President Thomas S. Monson, October 2008 Priesthood Session, General Conference

"Avoid the philosophy that yesterday's luxuries have become today's necessities. They aren't necessities until we make them so. Many enter into long-term debt only to find that changes occur; people become ill or incapacitated, companies fail or downsize, jobs are lost, natural disasters befall us. For many reasons, payments on large amounts of debt can no longer be made. Our debt becomes as a Damocles sword hanging over our heads and threatening to destroy us."
- President Thomas S. Monson, April 2006 General Conference

“We have built grain storage and storehouses and stocked them with the necessities of life in the event of a disaster. But the real storehouse is the family storeroom. In words of revelation the Lord has said, ‘Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing’ (D&C 109:8.)”
President Gordon B. Hinckley

"We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult--the spiritual. A 72-hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kit of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value.

"We are living in the prophesied time 'when peace shall be taken from the earth' (D&C 1:35,) when 'all things shall be in commotion' and 'men's hearts shall fail them' (D&C 88:91.) There are many temporal causes of commotion, including wars and natural disasters, but an even greater cause of current 'commotion' is spiritual." Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“Every father and mother are the family’s store keepers. They should store whatever their family would like to have in case of an emergency…(and) God will sustain us through our trials.” President James E. Faust

“We live in a most exciting and challenging period in human history. As technology sweeps through every facet of our lives, changes are occurring so rapidly that it can be difficult for us to keep our lives in balance. To maintain some semblance of stability in our lives, it is essential that we plan for our future. I believe it is time, and perhaps with some urgency, to review the counsel we have received in dealing with our personal and family preparedness. We want to be found with oil in our lamps sufficient to endure to the end.”- Elder L. Tom Perry, Ensign, Nov. 1995

"Many more people could ride out the storm-tossed waves in their economic lives if they had their year's supply of food. . . and were debt-free. Today we find that many have followed this counsel in reverse: they have at least a year's supply of debt and are food free." President Thomas S. Monson

"Just as it is important to prepare ourselves spiritually, we must also prepare ourselves for our temporal needs. … We have been instructed for years to follow at least four requirements in preparing for that which is to come.

“First, gain an adequate education. Learn a trade or a profession to enable you to obtain steady employment that will provide remuneration sufficient to care for yourself and your family. …

“Second, live strictly within your income and save something for a rainy day. Incorporate in your lives the discipline of budgeting that which the Lord has blessed you with. As regularly as you pay your tithing, set aside an amount needed for future family requirements. …

“Third, avoid excessive debt. Necessary debt should be incurred only after careful, thoughtful prayer and after obtaining the best possible advice. We need the discipline to stay well within our ability to pay. …

“Fourth, acquire and store a reserve of food and supplies that will sustain life [if local laws permit such storage]. Obtain clothing and build a savings account on a sensible, well-planned basis that can serve well in times of emergency. As long as I can remember, we have been taught to prepare for the future and to obtain a year’s supply of necessities. I would guess that the years of plenty have almost universally caused us to set aside this counsel. I believe the time to disregard this counsel is over. With events in the world today, it must be considered with all seriousness.” - Elder L. Tom Perry, October 1995 General Conference

“Maintain a year's supply. The Lord has urged that his people save for the rainy days, prepare for the difficult times, and put away for emergencies, a year's supply or more of bare necessities so that when comes the flood, the earthquake, the famine, the hurricane, the storms of life, our families can be sustained through the dark days. How many of us have complied with this? We strive with the Lord, finding many excuses: We do not have room for storage. The food spoils. We do not have the funds to do it. We do not like these common foods. It is not needed -- there will always be someone to help in trouble. The government will come to the rescue. And some intend to obey but procrastinate.” - The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.375

“All too often a family's spending is governed more by their yearning than by their earning. They somehow believe that their life will be better if they surround themselves with an abundance of things. All too often all they are left with is avoidable anxiety and distress” - Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

"Be prepared in all things against the day when tribulations and desolations are sent forth upon the wicked." D&C 29:8

"Too often we bask in our comfortable complacency and rationalize that the ravages of war, economic disaster, famine, and earthquake cannot happen here. Those who believe this are either not aquainted with the revelations of the Lord, or they do not believe them." President Ezra Taft Benson

"Fear not little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. . .Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." D&C 6:34, 36

"I believe that the Ten Virgins represent the people of the Church of Jesus Christ. . . They (five foolish) had the saving, exalting gospel, but it had not been made the center of their lives. They knew the way but gave only a small measure of loyalty and devotion.

"The foolish asked the others to share their oil, but spiritual preparedness cannot be shared in an instant. . . . This was not selfishness or unkindness. The kind of oil that is needed to illuminate the way and light up the darkness is not shareable. . . . In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living." - President Spencer W. Kimball

“We encourage families to have on hand this year’s supply; we say it over and over and over and repeat over and over the scripture of the Lord where he says, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord and do not the things which I say?” How empty it is as they put their spirituality, so-called, into action and call him by his important names, but fail to do the things which he says." - President Spencer W. Kimball"/>


All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site & will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.