Reader Challenge: How do I get the best deal…

Elizabeth emailed me and told me about an HP6310 All-in-One Printer that she was interested in getting. She had seen it for 50% off at Office Max and asked if I could do a quick tutorial on how I would go about figuring out if that was a good deal.

So here is my quick tutorial on how to make sure you are getting the best deal (without spending more then 15 minutes researching).

Elizabeth…while this deal looks great (50% off today for only $74.99) in 15 minutes I found you a better deal by doing these things:

  1. In my swagbucks search engine I typed in the type of printer you wanted. (side note I won 2 swagbucks which added to my other earnings will let me get $15 in Starbuck gift cards  just for doing a basic search)
  2. I was going to research the cost of that printer at four places that tend to offer competitive deals Walmart, Newegg (electronics), Amazon, and SamsClub.
  3. I discovered that Newegg had the lowest price by far with free shipping.
  4. I did a quick search on retailmenot to discover if any of the above stores had any coupon codes that could make the deal any better, they did not.
  5. I went to ebates and cashbaq to see which free program offered the most cashback for newegg.

Elizabeth based on my 15 minutes of research here is how to get that printer for the best deal that I see.

Go to ebates and log on or register for a new account.

On the top right hand side is a drop down menu that says “select a store” select the store “newegg”

You will be automatically redirected to newegg.

One there type in the printer you want in the search engine for the site (HP OFFICEJET 6310)

You will see the price is $44.99 with free shipping. Add to cart and check out as normal.

You will pay $44.99 out of pocket but you will get a check (when you earn over $5) from ebates for $5.89 if you opened a new account or .89 cents if you used an account you already had. This will bring your total cost of the printer shipped to you for $39.10 or $$44.10 a much better deal 🙂

Use this basic process for any item you wish to purchase online and see how much you can save —

What to do with all that chocolate…

If you went up to Walgreens (there is still time!) to snag your 17 bags of hersheys kisses for .03 cents each you may be sitting at home surrounded by hersheys kisses thinking…now what?!?

Here is our plan to get the most out of our finds:

1-saving 1 bag for the kiddos easter baskets

2-giving several bags to our favorite charity

3-Baking cookies!(see below!)

4-storing the remainder in our outdoor freezer to prevent against snacking and use them for cookies throughout the year!)

5-Using them to create cookie gift jars to friends, neighbors and as “just because I love you” gifts. (great recipes for that here…)

My husband (the best cookie maker) made a delicious batch of cookies using 1/2 a bag of the caramel filled kisses. The combination of Caramel and chocolate was AMAZING and so delicious! Here is how he did it. He took our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and added half a bag of the unwrapped kisses to the dough. He mixed it in our kitchenaid (which broke up the kisses into smaller pieces) then baked them following the directions for Choc. Chip cookies. The result? AMAZING! I’d show you a picture but they have already been eaten 🙂

What are you going to do with your find?

Frugal Recipe Friday-Homemade Yogurt

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Frugal Friday Recipe: Making your own yogurt

Making your own yogurt is surprisingly easy and sooo affordable.  I make my own yogurt several times a week because we eat so much of it. But it can last up to two weeks in your fridge!

Here are my top reasons to make your own yogurt 🙂

1-easy, easy, easy -About 5 minutes of “prep” and 10 hours of doing absolutely nothing

2- Healthy! No additives or preservatives or high fructose corn syrup (even so called “healthy” brands are adding HFCS be on the lookout!)

3-very economical. My average savings including electrical costs saves me  $2.24/32 oz (the huge containers) of non-organic yogurt. The cost is 55 cents (including electricity) for 32 oz (again the big carton) of yogurt. For our family that is $ 117.98    /year on yogurt. (see bottom of post for calculations) and that savings is if we buy non-organic…the organic (which we make) would be much more expensive (as would buying in ready to go cups instead of large containers)

4-Tasty-It is not over powerfully sweet and delicious. We can make as many varieties as we want 🙂

Step 1: Gather your ingredients:

3 cups milk

1-2tbs plain yogurt

Glass bowl

Yogurt maker

OR glass canning jars (quart size), heating pad, small box and a few towels

Candy thermometer

Step 2: Take 1-2tbs of plain yogurt and leave out on the counter until room tempurature. Plug in your yogurt maker to preheat or plug in an electric heating pad to approximately 115-120 degrees. Place in the bottom of a box.

I take my leftover yogurt and freeze it in ice cube trays. Then when its frozen I store it in the freezer in ziplock bags. One ice cube worth is the perfect amount of starter. You can also use 1-2 tbs of “fresh” yogurt…once you’ve made some just use some of the yogurt you’ve made to start the next batch.

Step 3: Bring milk to just below a boil.

I do this in my microwave. I cook it for about 6 minutes. You want it to be just before boiling approx 160-180 degrees.

Step 4: Your milk will have a thin layer of “skin”. Remove skin with a spoon.

Step 5: Place thermometer in the middle of the milk and allow to cool to between 110-120 degrees (warm to the touch).

I check on mine about every 10-15 minutes. It usually takes about 20 minutes for this to occur.

Step 6: Remove any “skin” that has formed on the milk. Your milk should be between 110-120 degrees

Step 7: Whisk in milk starter just until mixed (don’t over beat!)

Step 8: Pour into yogurt containers for your yogurt maker or into quart canning jars. Distribute evenly among your containers and place lids on.

Step 9: Place in preheated yogurt maker, or in box with the heating pad on the bottom. Pull the heating pad around the containers and surround and cover snugly with towels to keep the heat in.

Step 10: Allow to “set” overnight in a non-drafty location. approx 8-12 hours. Yogurt should be a bit like a thick jello at this point.

Step 11: Place in the back of the refrigerator for at least 3 hours to “set”. Serve with brown sugar, or add your favorite fruit and honey to sweeten!


FAQ

How do you flavor your yogurt?

My families favorite way is to buy frozen fruit and chop it up. We bring it to room temperature and then add it (juice and all for color) to the yogurt. We add a bit of honey to sweeten it..yum!

Another favorite is just plain yogurt with a bit of brown sugar (thanks for the tip Jennifer!)

How do you store your yogurt?

We store ours in small Tupperware containers (ready to grab for a lunch) or old yogurt containers in the fridge

GEEKY CALCULATIONS:

1 Gallon of milk $2.22

-price / cup = .13 cents

-price / batch = .42 cents

32 oz of yogurt for starter = $2.79

-price / tbs =.05 cents

-price / batch =.10 cents

Electrical Costs: Microwave = .01 cents according to this site

Yogurt Maker (running on 40 watts a high estimate…for 8hrs) = .02 cents (see above site)

Total cost for 32 oz of plain yogurt =.55 cents. THAT IS A SAVINGS OF $2.24 / 32 oz container of organic yogurt!

Frugal Recipe Friday-whole wheat honey oatmeal bread in your kitchenaid

Frugal Friday Recipe: My favorite whole wheat bread recipe

Making your own bread can seem daunting but it is quite simple once you get organized. This recipe I have adapted from several different recipes to have all my favorite elements, honey, oatmeal, wheat and of course using my kitchenaid. Here are some of the reasons I make my own bread:

1-easy, easy, easy -20 minutes of “prep” and then 5 hours of waiting.

2- Healthy! No additives or preservatives

3-very economical. My average cost per loaf is $1.63 (including electricity) for organic healthy bread. That saves me a little over $1 a loaf for the wheat bread we were buying.

4-Tasty- nothing tastes better then homemade bread, mmmm

Step 1: Gather your ingredients:

2 cups milk

1 cup oatmeal

3 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups white flour

2tbs yeast

1/2 cup honey

oil

salt

1/4 cup butter, melted

Step 2: Heat milk

I heat my milk in the microwave. It takes approximately 6 minutes. You want to heat your milk to just below boiling.

Step 3: Remove milk “skin” from top of the bowl

I just find it makes better bread. Just take a spoon to pull of the “skin” from the milk being heated

Step 4: Add oatmeal and hot milk into kitchenaid blender and allow to sit for about 1/2 hour or until lukewarm to the touch

Step 5: After oatmeal has cooled down to “warm”. Take a  separate bowl and  pour  1/2 cup very warm water, 1 tsp honey and 2 tbs yeast into it.

Whisk these together just until mixed (don’t over whisk). Let rise 5 minutes. Mixture should begin to foam up (see picture) if it does not work try again!

Step 6: Add the yeast mixture, butter, remaining honey and salt to the oatmeal mixture and stir using kitchenaid mixing attachment until mixed.

Step 7: Slowly add wheat and white flour. Stir until mixed.


Step 8: Remove kitchenaid mixing attachment and add kneading attachment. Add 1/4 cup flour and knead on low for 8 minutes

I just do dishes during this part so I have no clean-up

Step 9: Remove ball from the mixing bowl and spray / coat with oil. Place dough ball back in bowl and spray or lightly oil the top of the dough. Place in a dark humid place to rise 1-1.5 hours or until doubled

For this I usually place a small pie pin of warm water in the bottom rack of my oven. I then turn it on to low…and then turn it off. I place the bowl in the turned off oven with the door closed. I cover the bowl with a towel that is damp with hot/warm water.

Step 10: After dough has doubled punch down. Divide in half and shape into loaves. Place in greased bread pans seam side down. Re-cover and place in warm dark humid place and allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

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Step 11: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place loaves in oven and cook for 35-45 minutes or until you can tap on the bottom and the bread sounds hollow.

Step 12: Remove from pans and allow to cool completely before eating (if you can!)

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FAQ:

1-How long does your bread last?

My bread lasts 1-2 weeks in a ziplock bag. It lasts longer if I store it in the fridge

2- How do you keep your bread from tasting stale

I slice my bread when I need it, this keeps the loaf moist. I also make sure it is sealed in the ziplock bag.

3- Can you freeze your bread?

Yes! It works great! Then I just defrost and serve. I do this sometimes when I am giving someone a meal, then I have bread on hand to give them with their soup or cassarole.

4- Can I do this recipe in my breadmaker?

I don’t think so, but I don’t have a breadmaker, give it a try and let me know. I do recommend baking outside the breadmaker though in the oven as your bread will taste better (in my opinion). Before my breadmaker died I used it for the first few processes and then I would transfer the dough to bread pans for the final rise and baking process. Be sure and let me know in the comment section what works for you!

5- what size is your kitchenaid?

Mine is just the “standard” kitchenaid not he industrial.

6-Can I make this without the kitchenaid?

YES! Just mix the ingredients by hand, and then knead by hand for 10 minutes (instead of 8 with the kitchenaid).

Have fun and let me know how it works for you!

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Geeky Calculations:

2 cups milk = .26 cents

1 cup oatmeal = .04 cents

3 cups whole wheat flour = $.89

2 cups flour = $,98

2tbs yeast = .33 cents

1/2 cup honey = .21 cents

oil = .01 cents

salt = .01 cents

1/4 cup butter, melted = .19 cents

Oven Electricity usage cost: .32 cents

Microwave electricity usage: ..02cents

Kitchenaid Electricity usage: . .01 cents

Total cost per batch: = $3.27

Cost per loaf: = $1.63

A beginners guide to Rite Aid

Shopping at Rite Aid

For the pacific northwest Rite Aid is another great store for getting amazing bargains by taking advantage of some of their programs.

Note: Rite Aid is generally more expensive then your local grocery store unless you shop sales. In addition to their sale prices Rite Aid’s has thier SCR (single check rebate) program which can be used for some great deals. Occasionally they also run promotions for money back at Rite Aid.

1) Rite Aid’s SCR rebates
SCR is Rite Aid’s rebate program. It stands for Single Check Rebate. It is named such becuase you can only request a rebate once during the month. Smart shoppers wait until the end of the month to request their check so they don’t miss you on any great deals.  SCR deals can be found in your local Rite Aid ad (often they are highlighted) as well as in a paper flier at the front of your local store. I will highlight what I think are the best SCR’s here on this blog for you as well. Often the rebate is only good for one item, and it is only good during  specific time frame (ie only one or two weeks out of the month rebate period). This is different then Walgreen’s which run all month long. So if you see a deal you want be sure and pick it up that week!.
To participate in these deals you must go into Rite Aid, purchase the item listed and then turn in or input your receipt for your rebate. You can only request one rebate check per month so you want to wait until the end of the month to request this. The easiest way to request the rebates is to go here and sign up for their program online. Then you enter the recipt information into their website and at the end of the month just “request” your check (it will calculate your rebates from your recipt). It takes me almost three weeks to get the check from the date of request but I always get it!
Special Promotions-Rite Aid often runs special promotions where if you spend a certain amount by a certain date then you can get a Rite Aid gift card. Other promotions are that if you spend a certain amount on any breand (for example Proctor and Gambil) then you get a gift card for a certain amount of money. You don’t have to enroll in a seperate program for any of these. Rite Aid keeps track when you enter your recipts for the rebates. If you qualify your gift card will come in the mail as well as your check (I LOVE LOVE THIS ABOUT THIS COMPANY!).
A few Rite Aid “rules”

1-Sometimes at Rite Aid the order of your coupons is important. If this is true I’ll be sure to tell you!

2-There is no corporate policy on internet printable coupons. Each store is allowed to set its own policy. I have never had any problems (and Rite Aid gives you internet coupons when you sign up for their rebat program) but each store does have a right to decide so if your store won’t accept them there is nothing you can do (again I have been to 5 different stores in 3 different states and never had a problem)

A beginners guide to Walgreens

Shopping at Walgreens

For the pacific northwest Walgreens can give you some of the best deals for grocery’s and toiletries when you take advantage of their programs. It may seem a bit daunting at first but is quite simple one you get inot the swing of things.

Note: Walgreens is generally more expensive then your local grocery store unless you shop sales. In addition to their sale prices Walgreen’s has three other programs you can combine the sales with for some great deals.

1) Walgreen’s rebate booklet Easy Saver Catalog
This catalog is found in your local Walgreens. It is usually next to the weekly store ads. There is one for each month. I recommend grabbing several at the beginning of the month and keeping them at home.  There are two ways to save money with this catalog, rebates and coupons:
Rebates-In the back of the catalog it lists “free after rebate” offers for the month in addition to other rebates they are offerng for the month (for example $2 off of shampoo).  To participate in these deals you must go into Walgreens, purchase the item listed and then turn in or input your recipt for your rebate. You can only request one rebate check per month so you want to wait until the end of the month to request this. The easiest way to request the rebates is to go here and sign up for their program online. Then you enter the recipt information into your thier website and at the end of the month just “request” your check (it will calculate your rebates from your recipt).
You can choose to have the rebate sent to you in the form of a check or gift card. I recommend putting it on a gift card, you can reload your gift card each month (making the rebate arrive swifter and Walgreens gives you 10% additional money for putting it on your gift card. That ads up fast!)
Coupons-The easy Saver Catalog also includes a number of coupons that are good in the store all month long (for most of them). You can use these coupons with manufactuers coupons (from your newspaper or online) to get a great deal.   You can often times wait for an item to go on sale, use an easy saver coupon and manufactuers coupon and get the item for a really great deal.
2) Weekly Coupons- In the Walgreens weekly ad they often have a number of coupons that you can use to get great deals on your purcahses. These can be combined with manufactuers coupons for an even better deal.
3) Register Rewards (or Catalina Coupons)-These are coupons that print out of a machine after your purchase is complete. They are good for use on your next Walgreens purchase and function similar to cash. They have an experation date (usually 1-2 weeks after purchase) and have some exclusions (no pharmacy or alcohol purchases).
There are some things you can and cannot do with these coupons. You cannot use these coupons to purchase the same deal again. For example if I buy 3 shampoos and get $5 in register rewards I cannot use those $5 in register rewards to buy more shampoo and get another $5 in register rewards. I can use them to buy more shampoo but I will not be rewarded with more register rewards for donig so.
A few Walgreen “rules”

1-Sometimes at Walgreens the order of your coupons is important. If this is true I’ll be sure to tell you!

2-If you are shopping at walgreens you must have as many items as you have coupons. The register rewards count as a coupon, the weekly ad coupons, and manufactuers coupons all count. What does not count is any Easy Saver Coupons. If I have more coupons then items I will often through in a .25 cent item so the computer will let me use my coupons.

Recipe for laundry detergent (liquid)

Frugal Friday Recipe: Make your own liquid detergent

I know what your thinking, how ridiculous to make laundry soap. But let me assure you it is very much worth the minimal effort you put in. Here are my top three reasons to make your own detergent:

1-easy, easy, easy

2- lots of fun, it’s like creative license to make goop in your kitchen

3-very economical.

If you average 4 loads a week you will save approximately $37.41  a year.  Sounds like a fun date night to me 🙂 (geeky calculations at the bottom of this post)

This recipe is one that I find to work best, modify as needed I fiddled with a few different ones to come up with my favorite combination ( it is hard to mess up soap so be brave!)…

This recipe is enough for almost 200 loads of laundry!

Ingredients:

Water

  • 1/3 bar of soap

-laundry soap bars work best…we love using Fels Naptha Laundry Soap but it does have a lemon smell, be sure the gar soap isn’t mostly detergent or moisturizer, I heard ivory works good too-

  • 1/2 cup washing soda

-found in the laundry aisle of your supermarket. If yours doesn’t have it you can make your own by changing the chemical compound of baking soda (can you tell I’m married to a chemist?). Bake baking soda in the oven at 425 for 2hrs. WARNING: emits fumes so do in a well ventilated area / during the summer when windows and doors can be open!)

  • 1/2 cup Borax

-this is a common “green cleaning” ingredient and you can find it in the laundry section of pretty much any grocery store.

  • Essential oil for added scent (if desired)
  • 4 gallon bucket (with 2 gallons marked approx on the outside (just guess!)
  • Empty milk jugs or empty old detergent bottles for storage

How to create your soap:

  1. Using a vegetable peeler or grater grate 1/3 of your soap bar into 6 cups of water (in a pan). Heat on a low-medium heat until the soap is dissolved.
  2. Add your borax and washing soda. Stir until mixture becomes the consistency of pudding (or honey)
  3. Put approximately 4 cups of warm water in your four gallon bucket. Add your soap mixture and stir.
  4. Fill the bucket to the 2 gallon mark with cold water.
  5. Set the timer for 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes stir the soap
  6. After 1 hour set the timer for every 10 minutes and stir the soap every 10 minutes.
  7. When cool add a few drops of essential oil (if desired) and pour into milk jugs or into old liquid detergent bottles.  Use 1 tbs/ load of wash.

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CALCULATIONS: How I know its a savings…

Approximate start up cost (buying materials to make = $10) You’ll have enough though to make lots and lots of batches!

I priced out the costs and factoring in .40 cents for the amount of energy used to heat the soap on the stove for 15 minutes (a bit generous) it comes out to just under 2 pennies a load. Compare this to Sams Club price $.14 / load (this is for concentrated detergent).  If you average 5 loads a week that is $37.41/year. Of course our family washes more then 5 loads a week and we use slightly less then called for so our savings is even greater (yeah!)