Monday, November 29, 2010

The art of couponing and extra savings!

Just before Ben came back from Iraq we knew we needed to tighten our budget. Soldiers get extra money while deployed that we would no longer be getting when he got back and we have two more mouths to feed. Just before he got back, our ward at church had a lady come for what we call enrichment night. She taught us all she knows about couponing. Just after that, a friend of mine , Chrissy started doing similar things and taught me what she knows. A little more I learned threw trial and error. So far, I have cut our monthly budget for food and other like items in half. Still have a ways to go but it is a start. I have been asked to share what I know like the others have with me so here is what I have learned so far so maybe some of you can benefit as I have.

One of the things that helped me in the beginning was being told not to expect to save more than $10-$20 the first time. A little more the next and so on. It only took me three months of this to cut our budget in half but everyone will be different. It is really easy to give up in the beginning but it you stick it through, you will be glad you did. Since I did this, I was able to score things like two packs of diapers that normally would have been $20 for $1.44. I bought some stuff that normally would have been about $7 for $.89. Savings like that make it worth it. We figure I make about $50-$100/hr by doing this. Much better money than a part-time job would pay and I do it my way on my time.


In the beginning it takes more time than future months cause you will be doing stuff you don't have to in the future and you will get to know this stuff so that you can do it quicker. Lets start with coupons.

Initially I bought a little wallet thing for coupons but it only lasted me a month before I outgrew it and moved into a binder. I just grabbed an old one sitting around the house and filled it with those see-through plastic protective pages used for things like scrapbooking or protecting documents, etc. I put lables on the side that said things like Frozen foods, cereal, etc. for each category I knew I would be using. I left a couple of pages in between each lable to seperate into smaller categories or to seperate manufactoring coupons from the company coupons (more on that later).

The best places to get coupons in my opinion is online, in the stores, and in Sundays paper. I do not regularly get the paper and my paper does not have an option for Sunday only delivery so I have to buy a paper each Sunday. If it has what I want, sometimes I will buy three or four. I usually get a minimum of atleast $10 worth of coupons in each paper that I USE so it is worth the $1 is costs to buy it.

Online there are so many great sites like:
www.coupons.com
www.couponmap.com
www.couponmom.com
www.ebates.com
www.flit.com
www.smartsource.com
www.redplum.com
www.restaurants.com
These are in no particular order tho coupons.com is the one I use most. Also, if there is one particular thing you need to buy like lets say you need chocolate chips then check the company website for coupons. Places like bettycrocker.com nestles.com etc. will usually have coupons on them.

For coupons, my theory is that the more the better. It is better to have extra you won't use than to find out you need one you didn't think you would need and not have it. I usually pick one day a week to really do most of my stuff. Once a week or so I will go to coupons.com and print pretty much everything I buy and put it into my binder. I will also get the ones from the paper and anything I need that I don't have one for I will do a search or go to the company site. That is probably the most time consuming part other than the actual shopping.

My next step is to head to sites like www.publix.com and www.iheartpublix.com . Publix is the store I use cause it is closest to my house and has the best deals. Places like Kroger, Smiths, and Albertsons are others you may have. The store adds will become some of your best friends.

Each store has a different coupon policy so check the ones near you. I called the two closest to me and actually go to the farthest of the two cause the one closest to me does not take target coupons but the other one does and www.target.com has some awesome coupons! My store has a policy that it will take one manufacturers coupons per item, and one company (publix or another competetor like target, walgreens, or winn dixie). You can get the company coupons online or in the front of the store and sometimes even in the paper. Any coupon $.50 or less they will double. They tend to have a ton of Buy one get one sales. On those sales, they are really 50% off as you don't have to buy two. They just ring up at half the price. Not all stores work this way tho. Also, keep an eye out for the coupons on items or in those little booklets things are flashy things on the shelves that have them. Even if you don't plan on using it any time soon, they usually are good for months so pick up a few anyway but do be respectful and leave some for others. If you aren't going to use a coupon before it expires, either find a place that takes expired coupons or leave one near that item for someone else to use. I go through my coupon binder about once a month to check for any expired coupons.

On a BOGO, you can still use two coupons from each area and end up getting things for free or darn close to free. For example, lets say soup is one for BOGO. It usually costs $2.50 but with the BOGO it is $1.25. Then you add a company coupon for .75 off and then a manufacturer for .50 off (which can then be doubled at my store) and you end up getting it free! I just got a whole bunch of butter the other day for free by doing this. Sounds hard to figure out but you know what makes this so freakin easy? Sites like www.iheartpublix.com and www.grocerysmarts.com do the work for you. If you go to iheartpublix then each week she lists the deals at publix and where to get the coupons. She has done most the work for you. All you do it print the coupons or cut them out and put them with the others. Because my store takes both Manufacturers and Company coupons I will paperclip them together so I have easy access to both at the same time.

When you go to http://www.grocerysmarts.com you click on your state and a store (i.e. CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Target) and she lists the sales, how good of a sale it is, and where to get coupons for it. These are the two main sites I use but there is also www.southernsaves.com www.athriftmom.com and a million more. There are different ones for different areas of the country. Grocerysmarts is where I plan my trips to Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens. I didn't use to shop at these but it turns out they pay you to shop in their stores. They have these cards that are like the typical store cards but when you use them, they put money back onto the card. You can end up making money shopping there. Example, lets say CVS has a sale on French Fried Onions. They maybe are on for $3 instead of $5. Then you use a coupon for another dollar off. CVS then may say if you buy $10 worth, we will give you $5 back on your card. The FFO started off at $10 for 2. Between the sale and the coupon you paid $4. Then you got $5 back on your card for buying $10 worth. So, you made $1 buy buying FFO. Cool huh? If you plan it just right, it works. Even if it is something I don't generally use, if I am gonna make money to buy it, I buy it. Even if it is just a great deal, I will stock up. Rule of thumb is things go on sale every three months. So like the other day I saw a great sale of laundry detergent at CVS. I ended up paying something like $1 per cantainer I bought intead of the normal $9. So I bought three months worth to last me until their next sale and I only spent what you normally would have on one! Walgreens doesn't tend to be quite as nice with theirs as the others, but I still check it. I try to hit one or two of these three stores a week and it only takes me a minute to do it cause they are so small so it is worth it to me.

I do the same thing with stocking up with things I get at Publix as long as it is not perishable. By the end of a couple of months of doing this, you will see a huge difference in what you pay. I try to plan my meals around the sales so I don't have to pay full price for things but if it does come to that, I weigh the pros/cons of either paying a little extra at Publix or getting sale stuff their and hitting Walmart later for things that maybe are not on sale anywhere. But I have not had to hit Walmart in a while so that isn't often.

So, I hope this is helpful. Sounds very mindboggling but it actually isn't once you get into it and is well worth the time for the money. I will probably be adding info into the comments if I think of things I forgot. Feel welcome to do the same.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Crazy week this week





It was a very stressful, crazy week but fun at the same time. On Thursday we went to Fort Benning. They were having a HUGE celebration for 3ID for their homecoming now that the guys are all home. It was so much fun! There was free everything. Free food (hot dogs, bbq, pizza, ice cream, Popsicles, etc), a ton of free bounce houses for the kids and even some for adults, bungee jumping things, football game (CSU against 3ID), prize drawings, crafts, face painting, even Old Navy was giving out free shirts. We really enjoyed our time there as a family and didn't make it through any where near all the stuff before the night was up. (The digi camera I used there is missing so pics will come later.)

Friday afternoon we went to the girls Girl Scouts Halloween party. Our family did a jungle theme so all the kids were jungle animals. They got to dress up and while we were getting ready Luci got into the halloween makeup and was covered. It was actually pretty cute but that is what is on her face in the pics.














Friday night we carved pumpkins. The kids drew the faces and we cut them out how they wanted them.



































Saturday we went to our church Halloween party. We had a chili cookoff and stories for the kids. We then did trunk or treat in the parking lot and headed home. Saturday night we did the usual trick or treating in the neighborhood.







It was a good thing we headed out when we did cause even tho I had bought 5 bags of candy, we were out before we even left.






We get a HUGE amount of kids here. Never had many at any other place we have lived.




And for those of you from Alabama you will understand what I mean when I didn't think about it when I put Luci in an elephant costume. It seemed every house we went and on the street people would yell "Roll Tide!" But the kids had fun and actually all went to bed pretty easily considering (other than Cumorah of course lol). Hope you all had a great Halloween too.



Friday, June 25, 2010

Yes it's been forever again

But I am trying to keep up somewhat. Things are just crazy as I am sure you all understand. The twins are three months old now and weigh just over 10 lbs. Elijah is sick for the first time but seems to be recovering and Cumorah has not caught it at this point. They both think they are older than what they are and are trying to be 5 or 6 months old with the things they do. I wanted them to slow down, not speed up lol.

Anyway, Luci is being very 2 but still tons of fun. She is totally obsessed with water right now. She just loves to play in it and pour it back and forth between things. Celestial is our social butterfly that must be playing with friends at all times or she gets cranky. She seems to prefer boys too. Wonder where she got that from...

Unfortunately, Israel's OCD is getting much worse. They are trying different things but sometimes nothing really helps. It totally consumes him at times. He also lost weight (I know, like he had any to loose) so Celestial weighs more even as tiny as she is. Weird things like that are going on so I am hoping they can get to the bottom of everything soon, especially since we will be heading home soon.

Eden is pretty well. Very oppositional at times but better than times in the past. She loves having the twins and says she is addicted. Ben is doing pretty well and will be headed home probably in September. He worries about us but things there are dead. He is enjoying teaching the Iraqis combatives though.

Well, babies are crying so I will try to update more later.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Update on life with twins

I don't have long to write but thought I would try to update everyone since everyone has been asking how we are doing. The twins are great and are gaining weight. Cumorah seems to think she needs to eat at all times. They are total opposites of eachother. Elijah is calm and likes to look around while he is awake. Cumorah thinks if she is awake she needs to be held and fed. They don't really look anything alike either.

They take up a ton of time. I don't think I could do it without Ben here. Ben is the one that gets up with Israel in the morning and gets him ready while I sleep in (I am usually the one that gets up with the twins at night but I wake him when I need an extra hand). During the times I am feeding the twins, guess who is caring for the other kids, Ben. I have no idea how I am going to do it without him. Right now things are going well. We don't really have any down time (even now I am dealing with a crying baby) but at the same time, it is great.

The kids have all been great with the babies and none have shown any jealousy what so ever. Just this morning Luci came up to me and said, "I love the babies mommy." That was so nice to hear. The kids help out a ton. We just have to make sure Israel doesn't pick them up as he has often done. We are doing pretty well with the total lack of sleep. All in all it has been a great experience. I just dread the day we have to send Ben back to Iraq. Don't be surprised if things suddenly take a turn for the worse at that point lol.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Twins cont...

So the twins were doing great and during rounds (the time in the morning where every doc, nurse, PA, NP, etc talk about the babies) we decided to try taking the babies out of the incubator and see if they could hold their temps. If they could, the doc would send them home. When I told them Ben was supposed to be home on Monday he decided he wanted them to come home then. So Saturday night we switched them to a crib. I was so excited! I got all the paperwork done for discharge and headed home for the night.

When I came in the next morning (Sunday) I headed over to wash my hands as usual and realized there was an incubator where the crib was. At first I thought they had moved the babies (they had been in three different NICUs prior to this) and then I realized what had happened. They had been unable to keep their temps up and Elijah had quit eating so they had been put back in the incubator. Then I also got a call from Ben and found out he was not coming in on Monday as planned. It was kinda a depressing day. The new doc (they change each week) said the earliest he would move them back into a crib would be in 48 hrs and the earliest he would let them go would be Thursday.

So I continued to come in each day to feed the babies. My grandma took the other kids on Sunday night so I could spend the day at the hospital. I wasn't allowed to drive yet so my mom would drop me off on her way to work and we would do lunch together then she would pick me up after work. Then we found out Ben was supposed to be coming home Tuesday night. When rounds were done we discovered that the babies incubator had been turned down to 27.5 and it only needs to be 28 to be moved back to the crib so we decided to go ahead and move them out early and see if they could keep up their temps and come home when Ben got here. I was so scared to get my hopes up that night. Sunday had been such a huge roller coaster, especially as I watched other babies being sent home. Every time I heard that stupid car seat video you have to watch before they will release the babies I wanted to scream. I had dreams that night that Cumorah couldn't keep her temp and wouldn't eat. I was convinced that was the case.

When I came in Tuesday morning and saw them still in their cribs, I literally shouted for joy. The nurses in there didn't know me so they thought I was nuts until I explained. They had made it the full 24 hrs without a problem and even passed their carseat tests so we wouldn't need car beds instead. The doc said he wanted to keep them an extra day though cause one of the babies they sent home the day before ended up back in the NICU that morning. Also, he was worried since it is RSV season and the babies had yet to regain their birth weight. I was so disappointed and worried the babies would quit keeping their temps or something. I was talking with the Nurse Practitioner (who also happened to be the wife of the first doc that wanted them home with daddy) and she decided to convince the doc to send them home. Ben wasn't due until 11pm so we thought it would give them 12 more hours to be there and they could go home around 10 pm and be able to see daddy. She talked to him and he said they could go immediately as soon as they had their RSV shots. She I let my mom know and she took the afternoon off work to help me get settled and then headed down to McCammon to get the kids.

The kids were home for a little bit when my mom got a call from her sister, Diane. She was letting us know that Ben had just posted on Facebook that he wasn't coming home yet afterall. He had no other way to let me know. We were so glad she called cause we had been just about to tell the kids he was coming home that night. She sure saved us a lot of difficulty had we had to take it back. I was disappointed but to finally have my babies with me made it all easier to deal with. It turned out the plane Ben was supposed to get on had had some stuff that needed to be fixed so they couldn't fly yet. I had been looking forward to the extra hand during my first night home. Finally, two days later on Thursday April 1st at about 11:30 pm Ben made it to the Idaho Falls airport. The weather was just bad enough that they almost rerouted them to SLC. We were so relieved that they didn't.

Since the twins came home, they have continued to improve. The eat a ton, especially Cumorah. Their temps are staying up fine and they are doing great. The kids are so excited! It is hard to keep them away. Israel has already made bottles for the babies a few times without permission and once made it as far as feeding it to Elijah and then burping him and rocking him to sleep before I discovered what he was doing. I thought he was sleeping the whole time lol. So I am really lacking on sleep but I am loving being the mom of twins and having my wonderful hubby here. I don't know how I will do it when he is gone, but I am just going to enjoy this while I can.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The twins are here!

Boy has it been a roller coaster ride around here. The Army kept changing Ben's leave date (we still don't know) so that was really stressing me out. Then Eden and Israel both started really acting out and stressing us all out. Then on Tuesday (March 23) Celestial snuck into the bathroom with Luci and some scissors. Forget those cute hair cuts they just had done. Luci has nothing much left and Celestial's is very short. I was so upset! I couldn't believe all their beautiful hair was gone. Next thing I knew, we were headed to the hospital with contractions that were a minute and a half apart. The doc came in and verified the twins were still both breech so I headed in for a c-section. I was terrified! I had heard so many terrible things. Turned out to not be that bad other than even less privacy than a VBAC. Didn't realize that was possible.

Anyway, we were not able to get ahold of Ben in time so he missed the whole thing. My MIL was able to watch on webcam with my mom with me. At 11:24 pm little Cumorah Elisabeth was born. They showed her to me and I realized she wasn't near as big as the U/S on Friday has said. There was about a lb difference. She was only 4lb 4oz and 16 3/4 in. They then rushed her off to the NICU and at 11:26 Elijah Benjamin was born. He was quite a lot bigger than Cumorah though he also was smaller than the U/S had estimated. Elijah was 5lb and 18 1/2 in. He was also shown to me and then rushed off to the NICU. They continued with stitching me up and I just about died when the doc said "You are about to feel some pressure as I put all your guts back in". Never heard a doc put it quite that way lol.

After the c-section I was sent to recovery. It was a couple of hours before I got to see the kids or even know how they were doing. Elijah was not doing well so I wasn't allowed to touch him. He was struggling to breath and you could hear him clear across the room even with oxygen on. Cumorah was doing better and I was able to touch her, but not to hold or feed either one. They really weren't doing as well as the doc and I thought they would at this far along, especially after having had the steroids weeks earlier. It was hard to see them with so many wires and tubes coming out of them.

It was still a very long time before I was able to hold or feed the babies. I am not sure what time it was but I know it was later the next day. When I was finally able to hold them, Cumorah decided she was done with the feeding tube and oxygen and pulled them out. They decided to allow her a chance and she did fine without. The lactation consultant was shocked with how well she breastfed. She went around telling people she learned not to judge a nursing baby by it's size. Elijah had a tougher time. Though he was a little better, he still was not doing well. I asked that they put them together and they said they would. I continued to come to the NICU to feed them every 2-3 hrs and it wasn't until the next day that they finally put them together. Once they finally did, Elijah started breathing and eating so much better! He would even cry when I took Cumorah out of the bed if I didn't take him too. It was so cute! So they finally took his tubes out too. Later on Cumorah also took her IV out twice before they left it and then she took Elijahs out. They put his back in and then he took it out. A glance of things to come?

Seems they are awake and hungry now so I will finish the story another day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hair cuts! It was about time.

I have been needing to take my girls in for hair cuts but being on bedrest has prevented that. My wonderful mom took them in the other day and got them done. I have after pics of all the girls and before for Luci cause this was her first hair cut.


Luci Before Luci After



Celestial

Eden

Eden's 8th birthday party



I can hardly believe my baby girl is 8 already! She decided to make things easy on mommy since mommy is on bedrest that she would have a pajama party and watch a movie. Her birthday is Feb. 2 but we had her party on Feb. 6. We had nine little girls (including my own). The movie she picked was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. She had popcorn, rootbeer floats, and of course her cake. They all seemed to enjoy it and didn't want to leave. Here are some of the pics from the party.


Eden's birthday cake. It was Chocolate with a cherry whipped cream filling.


















Ben will be getting back for his midtour leave the beginning of April so he will be baptizing Eden and blessing the babies at that time. I will post pics afterward. I can't believe I have a kid old enough to be baptized! They sure grow up fast.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This was supposed to work from my phone but didn't.

It is really difficult for me to get the time to update this and when I do I don't know what to write. I will be going on bedrest probably this week though so I should have plenty of time at that point. As for now, the kids and I just got back from a trip to Boise. We were able to spend time with my sister Miriam and her family as well as Ben's Dad and his family. We all had a great time. I just wish we could move there now instead of waiting four years. We were able to go to the zoo and Chuck E Cheese as well as doing a little shopping for things the kids need and for the babies. The kids even had fun staying home and playing with their cousins. We all really needed the break and I am so glad we were able to go. Now to start months of being stuck at home. Atleast we got one final getaway.