Nothing Fancy Chili

chili

Great chili doesn’t take a lot of time and money

Chili should be a staple for any family on a budget. The ingredients go on sale all the time–and the leftovers can be frozen for future meals.

This is a basic chili recipe I’ve made up over the years. I’ve won many church chili contest with this recipe–and it’s really nothing fancy. People try to add expensive meats, fancy peppers and all sorts of spices to chili. But in the end, sticking to a basic, home-style chili always wins!

I never measure the spices, just shake in the ingredients using the “sift” side of your spices. I give a suggested number of shakes–but make your chili to taste. If you put too much heat in, have an extra can of chili beans and chili-ready diced tomatoes ready to add in. You can’t mess up chili!

Makes 8-12 servings!

Add all ingredients to crockpot (or use dutch oven for faster cooking–peppers/onions should be soft):

  • 1 lb of lean ground beef or lean ground turkey (you won’t notice the difference using turkey).
  • 2 cans of chili beans
  • 1/2 can of seasoned pinto beans (do not drain)
  • 2 cans of chili-ready diced tomatoes
  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 to 1/3 chopped large onion or 1 small onion (yellow or white)
  • 1 chopped fresh jalapeno (take seeds out if you don’t like a little heat)
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder–then add to taste
  • 2 shakes of hot sauce (optional)
  • 2-3 shakes of black pepper
  • 1 shake of cinnamon (optional–something I added after living in Cincy for a while)
  • 2-3 good shakes of garlic powder
  • 1-2 shakes of oregano
  • 1-2 shakes of cumin (careful with this–makes it hot!)
  • 1-2 shakes of cayenne (optional)

Add-ins:

  • For a more beany chili, toss in some drained black or northern beans
  • For a more watery chili, add half bottle/can of your favorite beer.
  • For a sweeter chili, add tablespoon of dark brown sugar
  • For meat-lovers, add in 1-2 pre-cooked polish or italian sausages–sliced

Note: I like to check the Chili after an hour in the crockpot and see if more seasoning is needed.

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Meal Planning on a Food Stamp Budget

adsI’m getting excited to begin my year on a food stamp budget in just under a week! In preparation, I’ve begun looking at the Jan 1 sales in my area. As you can see in this photo, I like to go through each store ad (mailed to me) and circle items I know to be at a good price. Then I see if I can tie them all into meals.

As you can see in the photo, pasta, hamburger meat, cottage cheese, quality pasta sauce (I splurge the extra dollars for good sauce) are all on sale. I thought this was a great start to Lasagna! My husband and children prefer a recipe that uses cottage cheese rather than ricotta. And what’s healthier than red pasta sauce, eggs and cottage cheese! The pasta and mozzarella are okay in moderation.

I also found shrimp at a yearly low of $3.99 a pound! You can’t get any healthier than shrimp! Since lemons are also on sale, I’m hoping to find a great lemon shrimp recipe–and I’ll probably make a Cajun shrimp and rice dish, too.

Finally, I saw Planters Trail Mix, Pace and several other good snack items were on sale. I’m gathering coupons now for these items. I use the coupon database at SoutherSavers.com to search for available coupons. To view upcoming coupons, I use SundayCouponPreview.com. Finally, you can usually find coupons on Ebay–though you have to buy them in bulk to be worthwhile. If it’s an item you use a lot of and has a long shelf life–this could be a good option.

Note: you are not actually buying the coupons, as that is illegal. You are paying the person for their time to collect and sort the free coupons. It’s a loophole I guess.

So that’s three dinners already planned for the first week–and all three will come out under $12 total after coupons and sales.

Rare Buy 2 Get 1 FREE Digiorno Pizza Coupon

This is a great coupon!!! Not long ago, Walgreens put their Digiorno on sale for Buy 2 get 1 free. With this coupon, I scored three pizza’s for the price of one! Hopefully that will happen again!

Quality frozen pizza is a great Friday night alternative to eating out! We load up and stick them in the deep freezer for nights I don’t feel like cooking!

Hip2Save

Wow! Hurry on over to Coupons.com where you can print a high value Buy 2 Get 1 FREE Large Digiorno Pizza coupon (up to a $7.01 value!).

Use the Buy 2 Get 1 FREE coupon at CVS through 12/29 to snag the following deal…

DiGiorno 12″ pizza 2/$11
Buy 3 for a total of $16.50
Use the Buy 2 Get 1 Free coupon found here
Pay $11
Submit to earn $0.50 cash for buying DiGiorno pizza from Ibotta
Final cost only $3.50 each!

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Extreme Couponing at CVS

cvs haul

CVS, Walgreens and Target are the three stores I shop for non-food items. Sometimes food items make it into the sale–but my focus is usually on toiletries. Out of all of them, CVS is my favorite!

I use cloth diapers most of the time, but at night and when traveling, we use paper. So I never pass up a good diaper deal. Today I headed out for a deal on diapers that will keep us stocked for several months.

Here’s the deal that started today: If you spend $30 on Huggies or Pampers diapers or wipes (free to mix/match brands), you receive $10 back in Extrabucks! The diapers were sale priced $10/pack with an Extracare card (aka: the CVS member card you must have to shop there). So three packs ads up to $30 even.

diaper sale

We were also out of foam bathroom cleaner. It wasn’t on sale–but other coupons made CVS the best option for purchasing this needed item.

Finally, quality contact solution happened to be on sale–and last week I noticed we are running low. All together, this brought my total spending to $52.77–right where I wanted to be!

This is my final store receipt.

receipt

The amount I paid with my debit card–was $4.77 + tax.  I used a $20 CVS gift card that I purchased last week for $10. The $10 purchase amount would also be a part of my out of pocket costs for a total of $14.77 + tax  coming out of my monthly budget.

Plus! Because of the promotions, I received $14 in CVS ExtraCare coupons back from my purchase. $10 for the diapers, and $4 for the contact lens solution. In my world–that’s as good as cash back.

ecbs

Let’s take a look at how I manged to do this using coupons.

This is a photo of all of the coupons I used in my transaction.

all coupons

In total, I used 8 coupons on 6 products by way of “stacking”. This means, I stacked store coupons on top of manufacture coupons. (Note: I took a back-up Pamper’s coupon in case the size I needed in Huggies was sold out–I ended up using it instead of the $2 Huggies coupon shown here).

Let’s go through each coupon and talk about how they work.

This is the first coupon I handed the cashier.

store coupon

I received it about two weeks ago post-purchase. I saved it in my wallet like cash. This coupon is one of my favorites–because it can be used on sale items. You can use it on almost anything, food or non-food. Gift cards, stamps, prescriptions  money orders and a few other things are not allowed.

My pre-tax total before applying this CVS store coupon was $52.77. This knocked me down to $42.77 + tax

Next, I gave the cashier my five manufacturer coupons. I had three for the diapers, one for the contact lens solution, and one for the scrubbing bubbles (it was a $1 off 2).

just manufacture coupons

This brought the $42.77 down to $30.77 + tax

Next, I redeemed at $6.00 Extrabuck that I had from a prior purchase.

extrabuck

Note: While this brings my out of pocket costs down for the transaction–I have to back it out later for my “bragging figure”. To calculate the final value of your products–you only count the Extrabucks earned for the current transaction–not those redeemed from prior transactions

This brought my OOP total down to $24.77 + tax

Luckily, I follow blogs and get great tip-offs. A few weeks ago, I purchased a $20 CVS Gift Card for $10 from Living Social. I applied this toward the final amount for an out of pocket total of $14.77+ tax (gift card amount included).  That’s the amount I deduct from my monthly budget

Now for my bragging figure, I just did the following math:

$14.77

+ $6.00 (amount of previously earned Extrabuck)

– $14.00 (amount of Extrabucks earned from this transaction)

= $6.77 + tax is my “bragging figure” or final value for what I purchased (as long as I don’t let my earned Extrabucks expire)! 

Visit Hip2Save.com for more information on how to use coupons at CVS.

Don’t get Duped! Tips for following Coupon Blogs

Coupon bloggers help save me time each week by doing the “match-up” work for me. They go through the store ads and find any available coupons that match the advertised sales. The good ones let their readers know which deals are the best, based on their knowledge of price points.

I cannot stress enough that frugal shopping cannot be done with out learning price points. A sale tag and a coupon doesn’t always equal a good deal.

Coupon bloggers also get tips on unadvertised deals from their readers.  Sometimes it’s these strange finds by readers that are the best deals of all.

But beware— I’ve wasted a lot of time and money in the beginning after falling for the “hurry! This won’t last!” traps of the coupon bloggers. They’re not doing all this work for sheer fun—they make money on the coupons printed by readers, as well as affiliate sales.

Here are some tips on how to follow coupon bloggers and not be duped:

  1. Prioritize. Bloggers post some really hot deals, but not every one is worth a trip to the store. Let your demand for the product guide your decision to buy it. As I mentioned above, they get paid for coupons you print from their site and other purchases you make from online store links they post. Once in a while, they post really great deals—but some of it’s just junk. Don’t end up spending more in an effort to spend less! You might be able to get 100 packs of gum for $0.25 each, but did you really have $25 to spend on gum this week?
  2. Don’t print every coupon. Many times what’s available online is also available in the newspapers. So check your existing coupons and the upcoming coupons before printing more of the same. Also, just because it’s a “rare!” or “hot” coupon doesn’t mean you need it. If it’s not a product you like or need…save your ink.
  3. Use Social Media. I follow my favorite blogs on Facebook—I find it’s the best way to keep up on any good deal tip-offs. I’m considering switching to Twitter though, as Facebook does not show all of the posts—only those it thinks you want to see. If you never like, comment or click through on a bloggers posts…it stops showing them on your wall. It’s all based on some crazy algorithm they think is helpful to the user experience. Urg.
  4. Timing is everything. I’ve mentioned before that for the drug store match-ups (Walgreens; CVS; Rite Aid), I follow Hip2save.com. The most important day to check Collin’s blog is on Saturdays (after about 4 pm). That’s when she posts her store match-ups and when I start pulling and printing coupons in preparation to hit the store.

Now if you really want to get extreme, and you have the time, there are a few more things you can do using blogs and forums. I typically don’t have the time.

  1. Search in google for ad scans of upcoming store ads. You’ll need to search by date. For instance, “Walgreens ad scan 8/26”. As long as you put the right publish date in (always a Sunday for the drug stores), you should be able to look at ads 2-3 weeks in advance. And often times, there are coupons online that disappear by the time the new week begins, so looking ahead increases your chance of getting certain coupons in advance of the sale. 
  2. Along the same lines, there are coupon forums that have threads dedicated to matching up upcoming ads. Users collaboratively post the best upcoming deals they see. Afullcup.com is one such website. Slickdeals.net also has forums. Just beware–slickdeals attracts a lot of shady characters.
  3. Read the facebook walls of the larger coupon blogs. I can’t stand couponmom.com (her website makes you log in and it’s a hot mess database that’s not at all helpful), BUT she does have a large following. That means her facebook wall is full of folks sharing deals they’ve found. If you peruse the wall once a day–you’ll find some good deals. The disadvantage is that not all of the folks that share are all that ethical–so it’s up to you to sort out the coupon abuse from the legit deals.

Couponing Organization and Time Mangagement

Staying organized is the first rule to saving money. You can’t stay on a budget if you don’t do a little planning. Here are some tips that I use to keep my couponing organized–and managing my time. I break my shopping up into shopping for food and pharmacy shopping because they require two different planning tactics.

Shopping for food: 

  • Before heading out to my local supermarket, I take a look at the “match-ups”on a local coupon blog,  Kansas City Mamas.  Every week, they match existing coupons with each store’s advertised sales. Not all of these match-ups make for a great deal, so they highlight those that are at “stock-up” prices. Search for a local or regional blog to follow–and be sure they highlight the deals that are worthwhile. A $2.99 sale on a small box of Cheerios is rarely a good deal–even with a coupon.
  • Based on what the blogs have told me, I decide which stores have deals that I want to get. I go to Pricechopper about every week because it is nearby and offers amazing sales. But Hen House and HyVee don’t always have enough on sale to be worth my time.
  • I combine trips with taking my daughter to gymnastics or other errands. The last thing you want to do is trade the money spent on food for gas.
  • I print out any coupons I don’t have that would make for a good deal. The blogs I follow provide the links to them (in return they get a small kick-back from the coupon companies for the advertising).
  • I clip and take only my food coupons in my binder. I  never purchase non-food products at the supermarket–because CVS and Walgreens offer better deals. Sometimes I pull out those that I know I’ll be using and put them in the front.
  • With my food coupons in hand, I like to stroll each isle looking at the weekly sales, and pull the coupons as a shop. SO many sales are unadvertised, that I find this works bests. Because the sale items usually have noticeable tags, I can move along pretty fast. I have learned what good price points are for most items—so it’s easy now to browse quickly.
  • After I have shopped the very best deals at my supermarket–and hopefully stocked up on a few staples, I go back and plan meals around what I was able to purchase. If I don’t have what I need to complete a meal, then I make a shopping list for Aldi. I often have a lot of produce needs that I fill there as well.
  • Occasionally, I go to Sam’s Club–usually only once a month. There are only a few things that can be purchased there cheaper than combining coupons with supermarket sales–typically items from companies that rarely offer coupons. I probably will not renew my membership there this year–I don’t use it enough to justify the cost.

Pharmacy Shopping (mostly non-food shopping)

  • I don’t clip coupons for non-food items because they rarely have unadvertised sales at CVS and Walgreens–so lugging all those clipped coupons around is just too much work.  After I’ve clipped out the food coupons I want, I write the published date on the front of each coupon insert and keep them in my desk. This helps me find the right insert later when referenced in the store “matchup” list. (Note: Saving all of your coupon inserts is also a great idea for other reasons. There are a lot of things that I don’t want or need.  But some deals are so good, you can “make money” by buying the product–and then just donate it to a friend. This concept will be addressed more in my posts about using coupons at CVS and Walgreens.)
  • I use the blog, hip2save.com to organize my Sunday trips to these two stores. I create a detailed shopping list based on Collin’s match-ups for these stores. She highlights the best deals–and usually those are the only ones I go out for–but I still browse the whole post for things I may be running low on. Sometimes you have to pay a bit more to stay stocked on items of a certain brand. I only like Dove Clinical deodorant–so even though $2 a box is considered a noteworthy deal, sale purchase limits sometimes force me to buy it at $3-4.
  • After pulling the match-ups from Hip2Save that I like, I check over the ad myself. I often have personalized coupons they send me (like $5 off $25 in baby items that suddenly turns a decent diaper sale a diaper blowout). I also get a lot of post-purchase coupons for $10 off a purchase of $50 that make moderate deals even better. And ALL of these CVS store coupons can be “stacked” on in the same transaction–CVS is one of the most lenient stores in regards to using coupons.
  • Once my list is complete, I pull the coupons I need and take them with me to the store. Hip2Save provides links to those available online. She’s pretty thorough. If the coupon exists and is legal, she will usually have it listed.
  • I check my email for any coupons from CVS–they send a few each month that I can send straight to my ExtraCare card. When I check out, the cashier will ask which ones I’d like to apply to the transaction. You also have the option to print if you don’t trust sending them to your card.
  • I head to the store and shop for the things on my list. Occasionally, they will run out of the item, so I request a rain check for those items.

CVS and Walgreens are both very difficult to learn to coupon–I still get tripped up on occasion. There are a lot of rules to follow, but also a lot of opportunities. I will create separate posts on how to best use coupons at these stores.

Cheap Treats for skinny families

I have several favorite go-to foods that allow my family a little treat, and still keep our waistlines in check. The best part about them–they’re cheap eats!

Just keep in mind that all eating should be done conscientiously. Watching TV, talking on the phone or being on the internet while snacking is a good way to overeat. The mind needs to be involved, too!

  1. Reduced-fat Wheat Thins and Laughing Cow Cheese slices (low fat version). You can go to Aldi and get the generic version of this (not my favorite), or coupon it down to about $1 a box for Wheat Thins and $1.50-$2 for the cheese. The best part is that both stock well. The individually-wrapped cheese slices can stay in your fridge for months! Be sure to portion out the crackers (about 17-21).
  2. Apples and greek yogurt. Dip whichever apple type is on sale ($1 a pound is good). There are so many greek yogurt brands now and tons of coupons to help get the price down. I buy Chobani brand by the tub.
  3. Homemade Rice Krispie treats. We all need a sweet treat once in a while. Rice Krispie treats have a lot less fat that cookies. The key is portioning. As soon as they cool, cut them in small pieces and put them in baggies. Eating a whole pan defeats the purpose. 🙂 Marshmellows at Aldi are about $1 and I like stock up on Rice Krispie cereal when it’s about $2/box and I have a coupon.
  4. Nearly fat-free popcorn. This is my one exception to conscientiousness snacking. Go ahead and eat it during a movie or while your working. It’s usually 94-98% fat free. Every store sells it–and many have a generic brand. A great price point is under $1 for a box of three bags. Occasionally, you can coupon a name brand for around $.50 for a box of three bags.
  5. Celery and PB. Celery at Aldi is so cheap they nearly give it away. With some $2.00 honey peanut butter–you’ve got a protein-packed snack. Just be sure to spread a thin layer of PB on a few stalks of celery. You don’t want to overeat foods high in fat–even when it’s the good kind.
  6. Raisins and dried cranberry.  For these, coupons can be hard to come by, but Sam’s club offers a great price on Ocean Spray cranberries in a large bag. Just use sandwich baggies to portion (I never, ever eat directly out of a bag; it’s a budget and diet buster!).
  7. Chocolate lovers need something, too. Jello Pudding coupons pop up once in a while. The 60-calorie pre-packaged or boxed puddings are a great way to get a quick chocolate fix.
  8. Flavored nuts are high in protein and easy to coupon–Walgreens has Blue Diamond on sale B1G1 just about every other week. We love the ones with a little spice to them.  Just skip those covered in sugar.