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Archive for the ‘Coupons’ Category

My Updated Coupon Binder

I recently updated my coupon binder categories.  Each category has a different-colored page.  If I run out of pages in a section, I just make a new one with the correct colored page.

  • yellow – produce
  • pink – meat
  • green – grocery (canned goods, baking items, etc.)
  • orange – dairy and refrigerated items
  • blue – frozen items
  • gray – non-food items (cleaning supplies, baggies, medicines, hygiene items, etc.)

I put a label on the first page of each section (first produce page says: “Produce”).

As I clip coupons, I put them in the next available space in the correct section (flour coupons go in the grocery section = green).  Sometimes, I’ll shuffle things around so that similar items (pistachios, pecans, etc.) are next to each other.

If there are any coupons that I know I definitely want to use (for an item currently on my grocery list), I put a sticky tap on the side of the page to catch my attention.  If there are any coupons expiring during the week, I move them to the pocket at the front of the binder.

I ask family, neighbors, and coworkers for coupons that they don’t want, so that I can have multiples of the same coupons.  That way, when an item is on sale, I can stock up.

My coupon binder is in my car next to my reusable shopping bags.

Here’s a link to my posts on making a coupon binder.

Janet from Cul-de-Sac-Chic made an awesome coupon binder.  She made tons of pages in fabulous colors and categorized everything.  Wow!

Check out Janet’s coupon binder post here:

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Want to make a coupon binder to organize all of your coupons?

I’ve put all 3 posts on one page!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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Freezer Cooking – January Menu

Here is the menu that I decided upon for my first round of freezer cooking (January):

  • Cooked chicken fajita meat – 4 pound package (freeze in 3 freezer bags)
  • Cooked, cubed chicken – 4 cups (2 cups per freezer bag  = 2 freezer bags)
  • Chicken noodle soup – multiply recipe x 6 (freeze in 9 freezer bags, plus 2 lunch servings in fridge)
  • Meatloaf – multiply recipe x 3 (freeze in 3 freezer bags)
  • Hamburger Casserole (From The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever) – multiply recipe x 3 (freeze in 4 freezer bags, plus 4 lunch/dinner servings in fridge)

In all, I froze 21 meals.  I was able to shop for ingredients, prepare the food, and freeze it in portions that worked for my family, all in one day.

Throughout the week, I was able to pull things out of the freezer for dinners.  It was so comforting to be leaving work each afternoon, knowing that dinner was already prepared.

On the far left, we have 3 meatloaves.  The top, left basket has been taken over by tons of chicken noodle soup.  The bottom, left basket has hamburger casserole, cooked, cubed chicken, and also cooked chicken fajita meat.

Freezing everything flat, in freezer bags, really helps to fit more things in the freezer.

For those of you wondering, I found the baskets at The Container Store.  They weren’t in the kitchen section of the store, but I’ve found them to be very helpful in keeping my freezer organized.

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Couponing

I’ve been using The Food Storage Network to help me plan, acquire, and use food storage.  They have great advice, books, posts, and downloadable spreadsheets to help you out.  This weekend, since I’ve finally gotten my homework under control (for the present), I’m going to do some massive couponing, studying of grocery ads, and grocery shopping to help build up our food storage.  My goal is to get about 1 month’s worth of food over the next month or so, and then build it up to enough food for 3 months.

I have my coupons filed in a filing cabinet.  I have several months worth, including double or triple sets of coupons for weeks that friends and coworkers gave me their coupons.  I’m going to go through each coupon packet and:

  • If it’s a coupon I’ll use (and it hasn’t expired), I’ll add it to my coupon spreadsheet, which lists the coupons I have and where they’re filed.
  • If a coupon flyer has no coupons that I will ever use, I’ll toss it in the recycling bin.

After I’ve gone through my coupons, I’ll go through this week’s store flyers for local grocery stores and pharmacies.  I’ll write down prices for items that I need for my food storage, and then make a list of things to shop for at each store, along with the coupons that I’ll need.

I have coupon organizers that I’ve made from sheet protectors.  If there are any coupons that I’ll need at the store, I’ll consult my coupon spreadsheet for their locations, cut them out, staple multiples (of the same coupon) together, and place each coupon (or coupon set) in the pockets of my coupon organizers sheet protectors.  I’ll take the sheet protectors (not the binder, it’s too bulky) to the store with me and be able to see my coupons easily.

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I’ve been reading Beating the High Cost of Eating by B. Salsbury.  It’s a great “course” on marketing and advertising.  I’m learning a lot about how grocers and food companies work to convince you to (1) buy their products, (2) spend more than you planned to at grocery stores, (3) stick with one grocery store, etc.  It’s a great book!

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Most recently, I’ve been collecting coupons from coworkers and neighbors, keeping track of any possible coupon I might need in a spreadsheet on my computer, finding great sales at stores and cutting out and taking these multiple sets of coupons to the store to buy these items, and…

Here are some things that I’ve found happen when I try to use my coupons:

(1) the store will not accept my newspaper coupons, because there store uses their own coupons for the items I’m trying to buy on sale

(2) the store puts a limit on how many items I can buy (usually limit 1)

(3) the house brand (Kroger, HEB, Safeway, Sam’s Choice, Market Pantry, etc. – whatever the store’s name is) is cheaper, even if I were to use my coupons on those items; example: coupon brand $.99 with coupon, store brand $.75

Every now and then, my coupons do work well, but I’ve found that I’ve put a lot of tiresome work into couponing.

Well, after reading what I have of Beating the High Cost of Eating, I’ve decided to implement a few changes in how I will do coupons:

(1) I will continue to gladly accept any coupons my coworkers and neighbors offer me.

(2) Instead of putting every possible coupon I might need into my spreadsheet, I will only list the ones for name brand items that I absolutely have to have, instead of going the cheaper route for house brands.  For example, I really like Ken’s dressing.  So, if I see a coupon for Ken’s dressing, I’ll type it into my spreadsheet.  The next time I need dressing or Ken’s goes on sale, I’ll stock up with my coupons.  On the other hand, I won’t type up whatever name brand cream cheese, because my local grocery has a house brand that’s much cheaper.

(3) I will attempt to purchase more house brands, if they are the better price.  I’ve learned that coupons (don’t laugh, I’ve been learning…) convince you to buy certain brands, which often cost more, and they also work to get you to have brand loyalty.  The cost to make the coupons, do commercials, and other advertising helps raise the cost of name brand products.

(4) I’ll still keep all of the coupons, so that if any incredible deal comes along on a name brand, and coupons would really help it along, I’ll search through my coupons for that particular coupon.

Well, we’ll see how this goes!

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Remember that chocolate cake I made the other day?  The one where I stacked two (single-layer) slices on top of each other to make a bigger slice?  Keep in mind that it was a new recipe, and it wasn’t from a healthy foods cookbook.  It used a lot of sugar.

After sitting down to eat my slice of cake, I soon found out that this tasty cake was actually too sweet for me to eat a large amount.  I knew if I did, I would be facing extreme sugar overload.  Wow.

Here’s a picture of how much of that slice was left:

Website May 18 - 9

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As I’ve said in previous posts, I’ve discovered The Fun with Food Storage Network.  One of the sites that links to this is The Obsessive Shopper.  They mention acquiring mutliple sets of coupons, organizing them by date and type (Smart Source, etc.), and keeping a spreadsheet list of coupons you’re interested in (instead of cutting them all out at once).

When you’re ready to buy something on sale at the store (or just need to buy something), you check your spreadsheet to see if you have a coupon.  If so, you cut out your multiple copies, put them in a sheet protector with your shopping list, and head out to the store.

I tried that and had my hands full of coupons.  I was constantly shuffling through them.  It was not fun.

My solution:  STAPLE MULTIPLE COPIES OF COUPONS TOGETHER!!!!  If I have 4 Pillsbury coupons for the same product, I staple them together, with the earliest expiration dates on top.  When I get to the register at the store, I tear off the number of coupons that I need.  Back at home, I put my unused coupons in my homemade coupon binder.

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Recently, I made a new coupon organizer:

coupon-binder-10

Click here to view How to Make a Coupon Binder, Part 1.

Click here to view How to Make a Coupon Binder, Part 2.

Click here to view How to Make a Coupon Binder, Part 3.

For those of you that don’t have a sewing machine, I recommend buying a large photo album from the dollar store for your coupon organizer. I had decided to make my coupon binder for free, while shopping at home, instead of spending a dollar and saving myself a lot of time.  Plus, I was able to customize my binder, making color-coded sections for canned goods, refrigerated/frozen items, cleaning/hygiene/paper products, and CVS/Walgreens/restaurant coupons.

After I made the coupon binder, with see-through slots for coupons, I discovered The Fun with Food Storage Network.  One of the sites that links to this is The Obsessive Shopper.

The Obsessive Shopper has an even better way to keep track of coupons.  You acquire multiple sets of coupons, date and file them in hanging files, type information about coupons you’ll use in an Excel spreadsheet, and only cut coupons as you need them.

In the past, I’ve laboriously cut tons of coupons, only to have them expire before I use them.  I would get behind and coupon booklets would pile up.  Now, I have a sortable and searchable spreadsheet of coupons I’ll use.  Listed in my spreadsheet are expiration dates and which coupon books/weeks the coupons are from.

Now, when an item goes on sale (or more often in my case, when I just need to buy a certain item), I search my spreadsheet, find listed coupons, pull the appropriate coupon booklet from my hanging files, cut out only the coupons I need, and go to the store.

Now, many of you know that you get to the store with coupons in hand and often find:

  • A.  The item your coupon is good for is not in the store (not present, wrong size package, etc.)
  • B.  The store has a better price on a different brand, usually the store brand.

So, there you are, back from your shopping trip, with several unused coupons.  What to do with them?  Well, I put my unused coupons in my lovely, new coupon binder.  That way, they’re organized for the next time I need that item (or it actually goes on sale and my store is actually carrying the correct size!).

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This is Day 3 of How to Make a Coupon Binder.

Click here to view Part 1.

Click here to view Part 2.

Last week, I got fed up with my previous coupon organizer and decided to create a new one to fit my needs.  I needed a coupon organizer that allowed me to view every variation of coupon in it’s own see-through pocket.  If I had coupons for $0.25 off 1, $0.50 off 2 and $0.75 off 3, then I needed a pocket for each one.

Today, I’m showing the next steps in making a homemade coupon organizer.  Remember that I shopped at home for this project.  I could have bought a large photo album at a discount store, but I decided to make one for free at home!  I know that many people use baseball card holder sleeves, but those can cost $3 a page!  Plus, if you have long coupons, they really stick out from the pockets.  I like my new coupon organizer, because it meets my specific organizational needs and it was ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!

Here are the final steps to making a coupon binder:

coupon-binder-06Step 4 – After cutting slits in the sheet protector in Step 3 (see previous post), insert a sheet of printer paper into the sheet protector.  By cutting the slits first, you don’t have to worry about cutting holes in the paper.  This way, you’ll end up with a front and back side to your finished coupon organizer page.

You might find it helpful to color code your pages.  Remember that many coupons will blend in with white paper.  Here is my color-coded system:

  • Pink – grocery items
  • Yellow – refrigerated or frozen items
  • Green – cleaning items, baggies, hygiene, etc.
  • Gray – restaurant coupons, CVS/Walgreens, etc. coupons

    coupon-binder-07

Step 5 – Using the crease lines you made from folding the sheet protector in Step 1, use your sewing machine to form pockets.  In the picture above, I am sewing on the crease lines.  You will need to sew both vertical and horizontal lines.

coupon-binder-08Step 6 – Repeat Steps 1- 5 with several sheet protectors and different colors of printer paper.  I recommend running several sheet protectors through your sewing machine, one after the other.  That way, you don’t have to keep stopping, cutting, and restarting your machine.  When one finishes going through, you just put the next one in after it.  Then, all you do is cut the thread between the sheet protectors.

coupon-binder-09Step 7 – Put your sheet protectors in a binder. Insert coupons in the pockets.  Notice that each sheet protector is double-sided, allowing you 8 pockets per sheet protector.

coupon-binder-10For items that have several coupons in the same category, such as cereal, toothcare, etc., you can use facing pages of your coupon binder.

coupon-binder-12By color-coding my pages, I can instantly go to the correct section of my coupon binder.  I can also add tabbed flags to the sheet protectors, divider-style.

Congratulations!  You made a homemade coupon organizer and you used materials that you had at home!  If you make a coupon binder, make a post on your blog, mention learningtobefrugal.com in your post, and write a comment on this page!!

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Yesterday, I explained my previous, not-working-for-me-anymore coupon photo album.

Click here to view Part 1.

My new coupon organizer is a binder with sheet protectors.  I divided them into compartments with my sewing machine.

Here are the first steps to making my improved version.

Materials:

  • Binder
  • Sheet Protectors
  • Printer Paper (different colors if available)
  • Sewing Machine
  • Craft Knife

coupon-binder-04Step 1 – Fold a sheet protector into fourths.  This creases the sheet protector and provides sewing lines.

coupon-binder-05Step 2 – Using a craft knife (I recommend putting a cutting mat underneath), locate the horizontal creases on your sheet protector (my sheet protector is turned landscape/sideways in the picture above).  Cut a line underneath the horizontal crease, but do not cut on the vertical crease.  You should then have two horizontal slits under the horizontal crease on either side of the vertical crease.

coupon-binder-11Step 3 – Check that your hand can pass through all layers of the sheet protector.  This is very important.  Notice that the slit does not go all the way across the sheet protector.  There is a slit on either side of the vertical crease.

Check back tomorrow for the final steps on how to build your homemade coupon organizer!

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Last week, I shopped from home and created a personalized coupon organizer with sheet protectors and my sewing machine.  Over the next few days, I’ll show you step-by-step how I made it.  Check back each day!

First, let’s start with my previous coupon organizer.

coupon-binder-03As you can see, my previous coupon organizer was a small photo album that I purchased from the Dollar Store.

coupon-binder-02In order to keep it organized, I had to label each section for different kinds of coupons.  The problem was that I would have multiple coupon brands in the same pocket, due to space restrictions.  In the picture above, you can see flour, yeast, sugar, evaporated milk, and other coupons all in the same pockets.  It made it very difficult to know which coupons I had.

coupon-binder-01Another problem was putting the coupons into the photo album.  As soon as you finished putting a coupon into a pocket and reached for another, the album would close and you’d lose your place.  Often, I’d just toss my newest coupons somewhere inbetween two pages until I got around to putting them in their specific spots.

As you can see, I knew that I needed a better system.  Check back tomorrow for how I began making my new and improved coupon organization system!

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