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 —

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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!

Money Saving Monday- MEAL PLANNING 101

Money Saving Monday-Meal planning saves you money

Be sure and check back every Monday for money saving tips for your family

Now don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to plan out your meals for a whole year, month or even week. But coming up with some type of meal plan will save you lots of money I promise. I started meal planning several months after we were married, and even though we were not eating out meal planning just 3 days in advance saved us an average of $20/ month in grocery’s. That is $240 a year!

I have found that the farther out I meal plan the more money I save. It also relieves alot of stress to not always be thinking, what’s for dinner?

Here are my top 5 reasons for meal planning

1-cutting down shopping trips saves gas, time and money (less likely to make last minute purchases

2-relieves day to day stress

3- less likely to go out or get take out if you know what’s for dinner at home

4- you eat healthier when you can plan in advance

5-can save up to $80 + dollars a month!

Here are some great tips for meal planning:

1- Start keeping your favorite recipes on your computer.

You can keep them just in a WORD document, or you can download recipe software (I have been very pleased with this free software). The advantage to having your recipes on your computer is you can easily print out a shopping list. With Recipe Center 5.0 (the free software I use) I can load as many recipes as I want and it will print me out a shopping list. This makes shopping very easy and I don’t have to sit down and think, what should we have? I just pull from our favorite recipes, and then try a few new ones. If I like a new recipe I add it to our database. You can do the same thing with a WORD document, just cut and paste the ingredients from your favorite recipes for an instant shopping list. I have found it to be very helpful.

2. Be flexible

Meal planning is great because it means you have on hand what you need to create a certain number of recipes, but if you don’t feel like Spagetti on Monday, no problem, take something else from further down the week and eat that instead. It gives you more freedom, not less.

3. Start Small

If you have never meal planned before start small. Try planning just one week at a time. You want to be successful! If that is going well and you feel like a challenge try planning two weeks at a time (I have found on average for every week I plan in advance I save about $20…plus added time…this means if I plan 2 weeks in advance I save on average $40/month on groceries, 3 week $60 and I save almost $80/ month if I plan the whole month in advance)

4. Get organized

On your calender don’t just write what you are eating that day, write any prep that needs to be done the day before (for example defrost this meet, or pre-soak beans, or if you know it will be a busy day, pre-cook ground beef) then you can antipate the time you will need to complete the recipe

If you want to try monthly meal planning…

Create a calender in a word document (email me if you want my copy, or leave a comment below)

On the calender for each day write down what you are having and what you need to do for the next day. Be sure and have a few “leftover days” to challenge your creativity! If you cannot fill in the whole calender because you run out of ideas don’t worry, start small and as you think of things add them in. I find it helpful to fill it out throughout the month. If we eat something I really like I add it to next months calender, or if I hear of a good recipe I want to try etc..

Create a shopping list

I find it helpful to create a list of non-perishable items that I need, and then seperate lists for each week for produce (things that won’t save). This allows me to do one big grocery run at the beginning of the month to our cheapest grocery store (WINCO) for bulk and perishable items I don’t have stockpiled or on hand. Then each weak I run to the local produce store which has amazing deals to get my fresh produce and perishables. I find it helpful to do it this way because I can literally on the whim re-arrange the entire month if I need to because I basically have everything on hand all month to cook 30 meals.

Inventory your kitchen / pantries

Before your run to the store go through and make sure you don’t already have the items. If you do, just cross them off the list (good stockpiling!)

Below you can see a very small version of my meal plan for february (click to see it larger) , if you need to see a bigger version just email me. Happy planning and please share your tips below!

If you can freeze some meals

Making double of a meal takes only about 10 minutes longer (on average) and then you have an “instant meal” for later on, if you have the freezer space!

february-meal-planning

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)

What are e-coupons? How do I use them?

E-coupons are coupons that you load directly onto your frequent shopping card.

The advantages of E-coupons are:

1. They can be combined with other coupons and are automatic.

2. They are totally free, you don’t have to buy a paper or pay any sign up fees

3. You don’t have to worry about “finding a paper coupon” the deduction is automatically taken

4. You can “lazy coupon” this way. Load up your card and just see if you you end up with a discount as you make your purchases. (not recommended for maximum savings but it still saves money!)

5. With upromise you can pay down school loans just by buying what you normally buy, groceries! (if you don’t have a  student loan, sign up to pay off a friend or family members … or mine 🙂

Where can I use E-coupons:

Currently all e-coupons (in the Northwest) can be used for QFC and Safeway (for P&G site only)

The exception to this is Upromise. See there website for a complete list of details.

Log into each website to see what stores accept them.

How do I get E-coupons:

1. Get your preferred shopping savings card handy (your Albertsons or QFC card for example)

2. Log into the e-coupon website and register for an account.

a. upromise

b. cellfire

c. shortcuts

d. P & G

3. Add or load the coupons to your card you want (I usually load them all).  You can even print out a shopping list so you remember what you have coupons for.

4. Re-load coupons approx. every month.

Troubleshooting:

If you didn’t get your coupon it could be for several reasons:

1. You bought the wrong product. Go home and double check

2. You didn’t load your e-coupon at least 24hours in advance so it didn’t have time to upload to your card.

3. There was an error. Each site offers product support, save your receipts and you can submit them if it didn’t work for a refund worth your coupon site.