Summer, Summer!

I can’t wait for summer break!  I love having everyone at home in the summer.  John and I have so much fun hanging out together.  It’s nice when the school year is over and we can both focus on our family and making memories.  It’s one of the best things about being married to a teacher.  Actually, it’s totally the best thing about being married to a teacher.  Even if he gets summer school, it’s short and he’ll be home early.  Can’t wait!

I love having the kids home.  We make big breakfasts and homemade pizza and baked goods like crazy.  We go to Bluebird Gap Farm, the zoo, Busch Gardens, the beach!  This summer will be different than past years, of course.  Chase lives in Poquoson with his dad.  He will certainly hang out and do fun stuff with us, but instead of dragging him out of the bed by his ankles, I’ll have to go pick him up!  And then there’s Julia…she’s all grown up now and is going to the monastery to begin her internship.  She won’t have the freedom to goof off with us all summer.

So, it’ll be different, but it’ll be fun.  Here is a list of our summer plans:

1.  Outer Banks at least for one week and probably for two

2.  Busch Gardens weekly with the Lunas/Cullisons.

3.  Camping

4.  Bluebird Gap Farm

5.  The zoo

6.  Yorktown Beach

7.  Hanging out with friends

8.  Water Country, maybe?

9.  Aunt Debbie’s pool

10.  Lots and lots of pancakes

I’m counting down the days!

Sidenote:  Lila’s preschool graduation is this morning.  Julia’s high school graduation is in a few weeks.  Be prepared for a lengthy blog about the subject of my eldest daughter’s graduation.

Couponing Chris’ Way

This is all about my couponing routine.  And, I dedicate this post to Nicole Haas, Kristin Weston and Zia Paige.

I am fairly new to the coupon craze.  But it has been a lifesaver.  I’m going to be very honest  here and tell you that there have been times in the not so distant past where I wasn’t sure how our groceries would last until payday and even then, how we would have enough money to buy what we needed.  Because I’ve chosen to be a stay at home mom, we make a lot of sacrifices and a  lot of choices to facilitate that.  I am fortunate to be able to earn money by selling Thirty-One bags and taking pictures and occassionally babysitting and that does help.  But still, we have quite a few mouths to feed on a teacher’s salary.

So, when John discovered Couponing, I knew that it was something that had real potential to help us out a lot.  He found some YouTube videos on the subject.

So, that’s where we started.

Here is my routine.

Step One:  Get 3-5 papers.  We subscribe to one.  I get that one, read through the coupons and see if we need more.  If we do, I send John to the grocery store to pick up several more papers.  It would be BETTER to subscribe to three or more papers.  It would be EVEN BETTER to get coupons from people who don’t use them.  In fact, John’s grandmother sends us the coupons from her two papers and my sister’s neighbor saves the coupons for me too.

Step Two:  Cut out all of the coupons you think you’ll use.  Some coupon gurus recommend you keep folders with dates on them and just clip out coupons as needed.  This does not work for me.  I need to be able to SEE what I have.

Step Three:  Go to and start making your lists.  Some people are willing to go to each and every store.  I am not willing or able to do this.  I make CVS, Kroger and Food Lion a priority.  If I have time, I will hit Harris Teeter, Walgreen’s, Target, etc.

The Southern Savers step is really an important step.  SS does all the research for me.  They go ahead of me and match all the coupons and sale items.  To me, it’s a waste of a coupon if I use it on an item that is not on sale.

So, I go to SS and I click on the store I’m going to.  I then click on the link for the weekly ad.  I read through the ad and then check each item I’m going to get.  I print the list, then go through my binder to find the coupons that match.  Then, I put the coupons in an envelope with the list and off I go.

Step Four:  CVS.  CVS is the most fun for me.  I like to try and spend as little as possible of my own money.  I take my printed out list and my envelope of coupons in with me.  This way, I don’t have to bring my huge binder and I won’t feel tempted to buy things that are not on the list.  I do keep the binder in the car, just in case.

Go to the CVS coupon printing machine.  It will often print out some great things.  If it prints off $1.00 off a bag of M&Ms and you know you have an M&Ms coupon in the binder, go out and get it.  Being able to use a store coupon and a manufacturing coupon is AWESOME!  The machine also often prints out $10 off a $50 purchase.  (That’s $50 purchase BEFORE coupons.)  That’s my favorite coupon.

Get all of your items and check out.  If they are out of something, get a raincheck.  Rainchecks never expire.  When you check out, show your Extra Care card.  It will give you the sale price savings and it will give you your extra care bucks.  Some people do tons of little transactions throughout the week to maximize savings, but I don’t have that kind of time.  I generally spend $20-$50 for my $100 to $200 cart load of stuff.

Step Five:  Kroger

I love Kroger for the mega deals.  I do the same for Kroger as I do for CVS.  Print my list, collect my coupons and go.  I buy only what is on the list.  Sometimes, I may have to pay full price for produce and meat, but that’s okay because I’m saving in so many other places.

Step Six:  Food Lion

I do most of my non-coupon shopping here, because their prices tend to be lowest, no matter what anyone says about Wal-mart.  I buy almost nothing at Wal-mart, grocery wise.

Other tips.

1.  Buy about a 12 week supply of things when you can.  The sales cycle about every twelve weeks.  An example- Kroger had a sale on pasta 2/.99.  And I had coupons for a$1.00 off of two.  I bought 22 boxes and made .22 cents.  That was more than a twelve weeks supply but it won’t go bad and if we get sick of it, it can go to the food bank.  In my 12 week supply I stock razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygeine products, make up, shampoo, body wash, etc.  I also keep 12 weeks of cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, and non perishables.  Right now, on my stockpile shelf, I have 12 weeks worth of Triscuits too.  (I love my Triscuits!)  More than 12 weeks worth is not necessary.  Couponing can turn into a game and you don’t want to wind up a hoarder.  If you end up with more than you need, I know a great food bank you can donate it to.

2.  Shop sales for the things you need to buy fresh. will help you to find the best prices on produce, meat, or anything else.  When starting out, keep a notebook with items you buy all the time and how much they cost at each store.  I’ve been grocery shopping for 20 years, so I didn’t really need to do this.  I know a lot of people who have though and it has helped them to know when they’re being tricked by marketing and when something is a really good price.

An example is Harris Teeter’s buy 2, get 1 free sale.  HT’s prices are so high, it’s hard to get a good deal there.  Buy 2, get 1 often makes the three items equal the normal price at Food Lion or Kroger or even Wal-mart.  (The time to go to Harris Teeter is when they are doing triple coupons.  But you still want to check southern savers and only buy what is on sale.)

3.  Look online to see if the stores you shop at have store coupons.  These can often be matched with manufacture coupons and sales.  My husband calls it the trifecta- an item is on sale, you have a store coupon AND you have a manufacturer’s coupon.  I did this with Pampers recently.  Target sent me a coupon for $7.00 off Pampers diapers and wipes.  I also had $1.50 off a box of Pampers and .50 off of wipes.  Both items were also on sale at Target.  It was a happy day.

4.  When you buy things online, google “Best Buy coupon code” or “Gymboree coupon code” to see if the store you’re shopping through has on online coupon out there somewhwere.  Usually they do.  I recently bought two Britax carseats on Diapers. com.  They were on sale for %15 off and I had a coupon for 20% off of my entire purchase.  It was an amazing deal.

5.  Try not to be brand loyal, when you can.  Some things, you have to be brand loyal to.  For instance, as far as I’m concerned, there is no maxipad in the world except Always Infinity.  So, I work hard to get those on sale and use coupons.  But I can be flexible about what kind of laundry soap or razor I buy.

6.  Give up the Club/buy in bulk mentality.  The only thing I still get at a Club store is Claire’s formula.  It’s the ONLY thing that I can save on by buying through the Club store.  You do better to buy smaller quantities and use coupons.  I promise.

And finally- the proof.  My grocery bill average before couponing- $550-$60o.  My grocery bill average with couponing- $250-$300.  And we have twice the groceries we used to have!

If you have any questions, let me know.  I am semi-new to this, but it really works and I’m really grateful for how much it’s helped my family.