You Are My Sunshine

Natures Botanical Gardens, Spring Hill, Florida. Photo courtesy of Jen Carter Photography.

My Only Sunshine

Natures Botanical Gardens, Spring Hill, Florida. Photo courtesy of Jen Carter Photography.

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27 May, 2012

Captain's Log: Publix Trip 26 May, 2012 1330 Hrs

Captains Log.... Day 942, Still no air conditioning, and no repair man in sight.... Okay, okay, I'm kidding. We are on day three of no air. Repair man comes tomorrow, THANK GOD. Air will be back on in time for the munchkin's return from down South. I woke up this morning to a fabulous rain - and then just as quickly as it came, it was gone again - replaced by a GLARING sun. So, it rained enough to make it humid, BUT the temperature HAS gone down. It's now EIGHTY SIX degrees instead of the balmy EIGHTY SEVEN it HAS been the last two days. Lucky us.

Anyways, I know that a lot of you probably see the Extreme Couponing shows and have heard stories about people paying next to nothing for groceries. Well, it happens. HOWEVER, it doesn't happen all the time. You have to be really dedicated and literally pick up coupons and get on mailing lists and blah, blah, blah, to get that lucky all the time - plus you have to live up north where you can double your coupons. Florida doesn't double - yet another advantage to living in the glorious Sunshine state. However, I'm not ever going to take my Rebel self up there permanently just so I can get my coupons doubled! I'm just sayin'.....

I'm going to be posting photos of my receipts on here, and I'll list out for you what is on each of them. Posting pics will be a new venture for me, so we will see how that goes.

SATURDAY"S SHOPPING TOTALS:

  •  PUBLIX: $318.62 TOTAL; $213.11 SAVED; $105.51 OOP
  •  SAMS: $81.10, no coupons, no savings other than the obvious. 

PUBLIX ADVENTURES:


And now for our first photo:

This was my trip through the line. OOP - $41.12, Savings - $108.86.

We got:

  • 10 - Small bags of Kibbles and Bits Dog Food (BOGO)
  • 1 small container of Publix brand half n half
  • 2 cans Publix Cream of Chicken
  • 1 bakery package of Kaiser Rolls
  • 1 container of Publix Cream Cheese
  • 1 package of whole Portabella mushrooms
  • 2 small roma tomatoes
  • 4 KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce (all free after coupons)
  • 4 KC Masterpiece Marinade (B1 Marindae get 1BBQ sauce free coupon + $1 off Marinade coupon)
  • 1 Publix Cooler Bag (still had to make a stop at Sams)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 Ronzoni Angel Hair Pasta (BOGO)
  • 5 Colgate Toothpaste (about $4.40 for all 5 after coupons)
  • 10 Sabra Hummus (all free after coupons)
  • 1 bag Stacey's Pita Chips (on sale 2/$5, had $1/1 coupon)
Bill gets run up by extras - mainly with the sandwich stuff and ingrediants for the Crockpot Italian Chicken I am making tonight.

Pic Number 2:


OOP - $50.66, Savings $83.59.

We got:

  • 2 bags Tostitos Chips (on sale 2/$5, coupon for free salsa WYB 2 bags)
  • 1 bag Stacey's Pita Chips  (on sale 2/$5, had $1/1 coupon)
  • 1 Garlic Herb Buffalo Wing Mix
  • 1 Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix
  • 1 Blueberry Muffin Mix
  • 10 Sabra Hummus
  • 1 Tostitos Salsa
  • 1 jar Greek Peppers
  • 4 Crystal Light (BOGO)
  • 6 Sweet Baby Rays (BOGO, had $1/3)
  • 2 Spicy Mustard
  • 1 Heinz Ketchup
  • 5 Toothpaste
  • 1 HALF LB Publix Tavern Ham Lunchmeat ($3.98, had $2 off $2 deli purachse - $1.98 OOP)
  • 1 bag Lettuce (Shredded)
  • 1 Olive Oil
  • 1 carton Iced Coffe (had $1/1 blinkie)
  • 1 Magazine
  • 1 Garlic and Rosemary potato seasoning
Okay, this was the hubby's trip, and yes, he picked out some of his own extras. His was a little higher because he had the olive oil and the seasoning packets (which aren't really cheap), and a magazine. Plus he bought me some iced coffee to try. :)

Moving right along - Pic Number 3:

OOP - $.78, Savings $4.59

I got:
  • 2 gallons Publix Sweet Tea (BOGO at $2.59 each - had $2 off $2 deli purchase - OOP $.59)
Remember when I said that some cashiers won't let you use your coupons together if they say only one coupon per customer? Well here's your example. Went back through for my tea. However, when my husband threw his remaining items up there, and she saw what I had left she looked up and said "I'm just going to do all of these together - which resulted in:

Pic Number 4:

OOP = $12.95, Savings $16.07, used 7 of the $2 of $2 deli purchase Publix coupons 

We got:
  • 1/2 lb Pepper Jack Cheese OOP - $1.17
  • 1/2 lb Provolone Cheese OOP - $1.26
  • 1/2 lb Chicken Breast Lunchmeat OOP - $.50
  • 1/2 lb Hard Salami OOP $1.75
  • 1/2 lb Sweet Ham OOP $1.77
  • 1/2 lb Swiss Cheese OOP $1.63
  • 1 Tub Macaroni Salad OOP $.29
  • 1/2 lb Turkey OOP $2.58 - it was Boarshead
Lunchmeat for the week - and so far those cold sandwiches and sweet tea are AWESOME with the heat in the house!

SAMS ADVENTURES

Finally we made a run to Sam's to pick up some meat. We ran into my Husband's fabulous Aunt while there who led us to a knife demonstration and we scored two free knives. I know I said that we usually do Winn Dixie for meat, but honestly, when we get off our butt and actually GO to Sams, they have a MUCH better deal on chicken breast. It was $1.97/lb for members mark chicken breast - and all their chickens must be related to Dolly Parton or Dog The Bounty Hunter's Wife because the breasts are HUGE, so we only need a couple to make a meal for all three of us. 

Pic Number 5 to round out the day:
OOP - $81.10, no coupons, no savings, other than the fact most everything was actually cheaper.

We got:
  • 1 gallon of milk
  • 1 50lb bag of dog food
  • 1 box spicy beef pockets
  • 1 large package of chicken breasts
  • 1 large package of tilapia
  • 1 4lb package of ground chuck
  • 1 copy of 50 Shades Darker (started it last night, already on pg 230 something, less porn so far, more story line, in case you were wondering)
Yeah, okay, I had to have the book. It was $10 cheaper at Sams than it was at the bookstore!

I found that milk is cheaper here, dog food CAN be cheaper if you don't have coupons and want to buy in bulk, AND I'm not so sure that laundry detergent, dish detergent, and dryer sheets aren't cheaper here if you are buying in bulk, and don't have coupons. 

IN CONCLUSION:

I really posted this blog to show what we were getting for the money. I also posted it to show what average couponing on an average week results in as far as your out of pocket. Some weeks are going to be awesome and you'll spend pennies for TONS of stuff. Some weeks coupons will just suck and your out of pockets will be higher - but if you do it RIGHT - you'll still come home with a few deals. 

This WEEK alone I saved $404.47. YEP!! ALMOST $500.00. So, while I still spent $202.94 this week, our cabinets are full, we are set for the next several weeks, and I've got extra if someone needs it, or if we have family over. 

And I include the following shots of my cabinets so you know I'm not a TOTAL hoarder - and if you think this is bad, you should see my SISTER IN LAW'S laundry room, or the cabinets of some of my friends!


Crackers, Chips, Soda, Rice, Pasta, Mashed Potatoes


So you can appreciate how deep the above cabinet is....
Extra Chips, Crystal Light, the Gevelia  Coffee Stash, Tea,  A1, BBQ sauce, Marinades

Salad Dressing, Tomatoes, popcorn, more BBQ sauce, odds and ends....

Here's all that Hummus we got free - 20 containers! The very pregnant niece got some last night, and I forsee a trip to my Mother in law's house to pawn off a few more containers!

Hope you enjoyed!
Love,
Maryellen

24 May, 2012

A New Way To Make Cube Steak! NO FRYING!



The Hubby and I tried this tonight. It really wasn't bad - even the munchkin ate it! 


It seems a little heavy on the salt/gravy side. I'd be interested to hear how you've tried it and modified it. 


However, the meat was falling apart, and it was really great with the Jasmine Rice we paired it with. I would definitely make it again.


THE BEST PART??


You make it in the CROCKPOT. 


Put in the ingredients and WALK AWAY! :)


** We chose to water down the gravy just a tad, but that's because we don't really like our gravies like a paste.


ENJOY!! :)


Love,
Maryellen

23 May, 2012

COUPONING 101

Okay, here is the cheat sheet for my Florida friends. I can't promise you that this works in other states, but it works here. So here ya go....


I get asked lots of times how I do it. I don't really know, I just do. It started out of necessity and hey, anytime I can SAVE money, I'm all about it. Now I'm kind of addicted. NOW I can shop at Publix, I get MORE than enough, I get NAMEBRAND, and I pay LESS than if I bought generic, or didn't buy the stuff at all (so it seems).  I have been able to give my niece some stuff since she just moved out on her own, helped my 20 year old niece who has a baby due NEXT WEEK ((YAY!!!)), given my mom stuff, donated to our church. It's a really nice feeling. And if everyone is down on their luck, we can say "Ya'll come eat at our place" and not have to worry if we can afford it, or wonder if there will be enough to last the rest of the week. 


We used to shop Aldi's, get what we could at Dollar General, or Dollar Tree, and then do our meat at Winn Dixie. Those days are done! We still get some stuff at those places - but it's just because we like their brand, not because we HAVE to. :)


Before you ask, I started this last August. WHY? Because all the peeps at Dispatch were posting their receipts - and I swear, there's ONE dispatcher there that Publix pays to shop EVERY time she goes to the store! Why the hell was I paying for groceries when I could learn to coupon??


Tonight I was able to SAVE $191.36, and paid $16.33. I know lots of people who say "Yeah, but you gotta buy all that stuff you never use". True, sometimes it DOES work out that way, but I REALLY try not to. Sometimes though if money is tight, you can bet I'll take home 15 bottles of Vitamin A or Gas X if it means a $2.00 overage - that's $30.00 in FREE groceries. 


What DID I get?


30 - broiler pans - $.99 had $1.00 coupon - that gave me $.01 overage for each pan.
20 - cans Alpo dog food - $.65 each - Had 4 $1.00/5 and combined that with 2 $1.50 manufacters coupons found on top of cans. 20 cans were $6.00. .33/each can.
14 - bags Pedigree Dentastix - Buy one get one at $3.59 - used $2.00/1 Publix coupon for each bag I bought, combined with 7 $1.00/2. All that came to -$9.87, that's right, $9.87 in FREE groceries. 
Gracie Toy - $2.99, no coupons. 
4 - Aunt Jamima French Sticks and 2 - Aunt Jamima Pancakes - Buy one get one at $2.79, had 3 $1.00/2, total of 5.37 for all.
6 - Doritos Chips - Buy One Get One at $4.29, 3 $1.00/1 when you buy one manufacturers coupon, combined with a buy 2 Doritos get Free Pepsi Max 2L Publix coupon. ($9.87 total)
3 - Pepsi Max 2L FREE - See above Doritos Deal. (SAVED $5.67)
2 - International Delights Pints of Coffee Creamer - had $1.00/2 manufacturer coupon. ($2.00 total)
5- Sun Drop (winds up being $.50 each)
5- Sunkist (FREE)
5- A&W Rootbeer (FREE)
Soda deal was a little tricky.... Had 5 $1.00/1 Sundrop Manufacturer coupons, Had 5 Buy one Sundrop, get 1 Sunkist Free Coupon from a Publix booklet, Had 5 Buy 2 of A&W, Sundrop, Sunkist, and some others, and get one free. They probably SHOULDN'T have taken that last coupon, but they did. 


I did this in two trips at two different stores. My stores are HEAVILY couponed up here, so I was lucky to do this well on the last day of the ad. 


So, all stuff we will use, and all that would have come to over $200.00 when you combine my savings and out of pocket. 


WHERE DO I GET MY COUPONS?


Sunday paper. Online. 


*My personal tips - I buy the Tampa Tribune. I now buy 10 papers (lots of people buy more), but you should always buy at least TWO papers for every person in your household. You must buy them in TWO'S. WHY? Because at Publix you can use ONE coupon for EACH item - EVEN if it's the FREE one. 


EXAMPLE: Item is Buy One Get One Free and costs $2.00. You will use ONE $2.00 coupon for the one you are paying for, and ONE $2.00 coupon for the free one. So, you are MAKING $2.00 for every PAIR of the item you buy, and you can use that $2.00 for meat or something else that doesn't regularly have coupons. 


* I buy the Tampa Tribune because it is cheaper than the St. Pete Times.

* Don't throw your extra papers away. Recycle them. I have used them in my snake cages, the bird cage, rat cages, packing... it's uses are endless. 


HOW DO I FIND THE DEALS?


I use a cheat website. Well, it's not really a cheat website, I just call it MY personal cheat website. 


WWW.MYCOUPONEXPERT.COM


Let me say it again..........


WWW.MYCOUPONEXPERT.COM


They list the ENTIRE Publix Ad for that week and most every coupon that is out there for each item in the sale. They also tell you the good deals, the freebies, etc. I plan my shopping trip out by these lists.


You can also use: www.iheartpublix.com They aren't as simplified as My Coupon Expert, but they list everything also.  


OTHER NOTES:


* It will take you a little while to build up your stock pile of coupon inserts. If you need some that you don't have, you can buy them from websites, or from ebay, ebay also sells single coupons.


* Online coupons usually let you print one or two prints of a coupon. Remember that copying them is FRAUD. You CAN be prosecuted. I have't seen any coupons for criminal lawyers - reproduce them at your own risk.


* Some cashiers, and some of the people behind you can be real assholes when they see you hop in line with a stack of coupons. They can get over it. They are hatin' because they have to pay for all the stuff in their cart. :p BUT, try to warn people that you have a lot of coupons. Couponers are like smokers, give people a chance to move away from you rather than making them suffer through your saving spree. Cashiers will argue with you. If you are right, stand your ground and don't be afraid to ask for a manager. Don't be a jerk either. 


* I don't clip all my inserts. I leave them whole, group them together, and put them in plastic sleeves. When I do my shopping list I pull the whole insert, go through and pull out the page I need in all that particular insert, clip the coupon, put those pages in the front page of the first insert and put the stack back in it's sleeve.


* Couponing is TIME CONSUMING. I was probably in my office for 1.5 hours last night getting my stuff together - it was only that short of time because I was only getting a few things. Yes, that's right 1.5 isn't a long time. There are people that work couponing like they work a part time job - and yes, those are those people walking out with $600.00 worth of groceries that the store paid them to take home. 


* If you have enough overages and you are due cash BACK (yes, this happens too), some Publix will give you the cash, some don't. You can always ask to put it on a store giftcard - it's not like you won't be spending it there again next week!


* Sales go in 8 week cycles. BUY ENOUGH TO LAST YOU 6-8 WEEKS. That means you may think it's ridiculous to buy 8 jars of spaghetti sauce, but it won't be on sale again for 8 weeks. I use two jars when I make sauce, so I have 4 nights worth of spaghetti sauce to use within the next almost 60 days of dinners. Needless to say, I buy as much as I can.


* Familiarize yourself with YOUR stores coupon policy. Publix accepts competitor coupons - but each Publix will take a different competitor. So, I know at this one I have to use my Target coupons, and at that one I have to use my Save A Lot.


* Pick up all the booklets at Publix. Get them all in 2's. (I walk out with like 20, yes, my husband shakes his head when he goes with me.)


* Pull the blinkie coupons. Get them all in 2's. 


* READ YOUR COUPONS. You have to make sure your size in the item is right. Don't try to save a dollar on the .5 oz if the coupon is for the .9 oz, etc. The coupon won't work and then you've got to dig the item out and take it off your total, or even worse, pay full price for it. 


* READ YOUR COUPONS. Some of them say "4 like coupons" or "1 deal per customer". Cashiers are not stupid. Stores are cracking down on the couponing - and the cashiers. If it says 4, don't try to use 6, you'll have to take them off, or pay full price for them. And ONE DEAL means ONE DEAL. Yes, occasionally you will get a cashier that will let you slide, but usually they don't. Deal with it. Do more than one transaction if you have to. It's about saving money.  Saving money pays the rent and electric, saving time, well, that's great too, but it won't pay the rest of your bills... I'm just sayin'....


* Sign up for products online - USE A JUNK GENERIC EMAIL. maryellencoupons or something really simple. Believe me, you will get a BUNCH of email from these companies, but at least all your coupons will be in one place there, and your regular email won't be so cluttered.  


* You will come up with your own system for shopping, maintaining your coupons, clipping, etc.... It all takes time to find out what works best for you!


WHAT DO I DO WITH EXPIRED COUPONS?


 PAY ATTENTION!!! THIS IS IMPORTANT! 


DO NOT EVER EVER EVER THROW OUT EXPIRED INSERTS. EVER. 


When the inserts are expired and you can't use them, take what is left of the inserts and mail them to overseas military families. They can use manufacturer coupons for six months after expiration.


These people make shit money while we "live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post."


Okay, okay, sorry, that's my favorite quote from "A Few Good Men", and I've always wanted to use it somewhere. HOWEVER, it's very true. These people are bustin' their ass for us, for our kids, and for this great country known as the United States Of America. 


Go to this website and get matched with a family who is far from home and could use some extra money. Besides, what better place for them to go that to the home of a hero who is willing to run the risk of losing his own life so HIS children can eat while protecting OURS here in the civilian world. 


https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coups-For-Troops/125646820854064

ABBREVIATIONS TO KNOW:


MQ or MfgQ - Manufacturers Coupon
Pub Q or PQ - Publix Coupon


IN CONCLUSION:


I hope this helps you and gives you some insight into the coupon madness. Start slow, work your way up. You'll be saving a lot of money before you know it. There are couponing groups on facebook if you need help. 


Creative Couponing is one. This is run by some fellow Manatee High School Alumni, and one of the moderators teaches a class for pennies. I THINK it's $20.00 or something. You'll save that a couple of times over on your first REAL shopping trip. Fork it over, learn the short cuts, and you will be ahead of the game!  You can also post questions, or post coupons you need/want to trade, etc.... Here is the link:


https://www.facebook.com/groups/188262271249176/

It's a real blast. Grace gets involved and pulls coupons in the stores, helps me check out, etc, etc, etc....

If you have questions or comments, please feel free to post away. Likewise, if my fellow couponers take a look at this, please feel free to comment and make suggestions, or correct me, or add to this if needed!

Love,
Maryellen


03 May, 2012

Growing Up And Moving On.

So, I went into a local bank this morning to speak to a representative about possibly switching banking institutions. This very cute dark haired girl comes to get me and begins to explain the different bank accounts, etc.... I'm not sure how it happened but she opened up about a miscarriage, a divorce, etc. With the exceptions of the fact I've never had a miscarriage, and I'm not bisexual, it was pretty much like having a conversation with me - except I was talking to the "me" I was when I was her age (which was 26).

It was pretty much my life story... She met someone a little older than her when she was young, she got pregnant, they grew apart because she started to grow up and realized who she was (or was going to be), wasn't what he had in mind. Soon he wouldn't touch her, and pretty much they were more roommates than partners, or husband and wife. She found some attention elsewhere and decided then that it was time to move on. Of course now, he refuses to let her leave with her child, though she is free to leave by herself at any point, and has filed divorce seeking pretty much everything - including her child.

I listened to her story, and I swear I wanted to cry. We talked about growing up and realizing that sometimes when you finally start to grow up, being who you are comes at a cost - be that relationships, friends, or even family. I think that's an even harder pill to swallow when you have this realization and you are a mother. I think you hang on longer to situations and people that you know are already done and over with, and I think you pray harder for miracles so that you don't have to "do that thing which you know you must".

I know in my own situation I stayed until the bitter end, and by bitter, how much worse can "GET THE FUCK OUT" be?? We had both done so much stupid shit, and burned so many bridges, and honestly by that morning it was just wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. Well, at least it was for me, I don't know WHAT the hell he was thinking, but I suspect he was just over it too. I really honestly believe that by that morning I was so over it that hanging in there "for the sake of our daughter" was no longer a factor. I had done it as long as I was going to, and I was over it.

How long can you watch someone walk in the front door and have them look at you like "Oh, you're still here....", or you sit on the couch - alone - because they'd rather be doing something else, OR, you lay in bed at night and you listen to them breathe, but holding you is, as usual, the farthest thing from their mind. It's a total mind fuck to know that you someone's biggest disappointment, or regret.

The fact is that you can analyze the fact that he was never home and didn't honestly give two shits about us waiting for him at home, and you can analyze the fact that I always sucked with money and keeping the house up - despite the fact I worked full time too, but the reality of it all is that we just weren't meant to be, and instead of calling the game when it was time so we could part as friends and continue to make a happy life for the one and only thing we ever did fucking right, we stayed, we fought, it got worse, he did some even MORE stupid shit, and God knows I did too, and then one morning it imploded over a Goddamned mortgage payment.

Two years and eleven months later, what is there to show for it? Well, the situation between my daughter's father and I slowly continues to deteriorate. His girlfriend and mother are still pretty much the two biggest assholes I've ever met. One lawyer happened make $31,000.00 off of our daughter's "best interest", and the other lawyer got a judgement, but of course, the opposing party won't pay him - er, his mother won't pay him, since this whole legal battle hasn't cost him a dime - his mother paid for it all.

Somedays I seriously sit back and I think to myself "What the hell did I do to deserve this"? Or, I think to myself "doesn't he care AT ALL about his daughter?" Now, of course, I realize this has nothing to do with his daughter. All he really cares about - along with his asshole girlfriend, and asshole mother - is making me suffer. I'm long past suffering. I won. Not only did I win, but my lawyer made yours look like he got his law degree on ebay.

But, you know who has lost? Our daughter. It's been two years. By this point, and given the fact that I'm now married and ridiculously happy, and he's still shacked up with G's daycare teacher, you'd think everyone could have just let it go. And for the most part I have. I realize that my terminology and phrasing may indicate otherwise, but to my kid, it's all over. Mommy will always love daddy, we just made better friends, and someday all this ugliness will be over.

So, as I listened to this story, I gave her the only advice I could. It was to stay strong, always put her daughter first and to realize that there comes a point where you have to realize that it's you or him - and what's in the middle of this struggle is your kid(s). My heart broke for her. I've been that scared. I've been that depressed. I've been that tired. I've been that confused, and in the end I was THAT angry.

However, maybe one day for both of us, the ugliness will pass, we'll be able to raise our children with our respective former partners, and give our kids all that we had hoped for - be it in separate houses.

So, I wish her well, and hope she finds the strength to see it through.