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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jenny's Homefront Strategy: Feeding the Family for Free

What do all these things have in common?

Coupons allow you to get name band products at a considerable
savings. Maybe even free!

All of them were totally free. Free, name brand products that my family will use and I didn't spend a dime on. What is better than free? Free name brand products.

Before you get the wrong I idea, I assure you there is no five finger discount going on here. How do I get free products? I coupon. Couponing allows me to take the money we've budgeted for food and personal needs and stretch it to the nth degree. Couponing has allowed me to purchase more expensive name brands that I may have otherwise walked past.

Couponing is a big part of Jenny's Homefront Strategy.

If you asked me four years ago if I couponed I would have told you I don't have time for it. I'll admit, couponing sometimes feels like a second job. But with the prices in the stores being what they were and the economy being what is is, you can hardly afford not to. "Coupon shopping: is a bit different than your more common "needs based" shopping. With "coupon shopping" your goal is purely an economical one. Buy as much of a product that you will use and the rock bottom price. When you coupon, you anticipate future needs. This requires  you to store your additional products. This is referred to as your "stockpile". A stockpile is a good thing, please do not confuse it with hording. A stockpile is composed of items that will be consumed in a reasonable time frame whereas hording behavior generally is for items that have no real intrinstic value and or are not consumed. A stockpile will disappear as items are eaten or  used. Hording does not.

1. Keep a binder and buy multiple papers. Or if you are lucky enough have friends who don't coupon save you their coupons. There are many ways to set up a binder. Personally for mine, I keep it very simple. I personally see no reason to clip coupons that I may not use. It takes way too much time and time is one commodity I don't have much of. For my binder, the most recent coupons go in the front, with all the multiple pages grouped together. So if I have page one of an insert and I've bought three papers, each page 1 of that insert is grouped together and put in a clear sleeve in my binder. All the old inserts are in the back and as they expire and I remove them, I put the empty sleeve in the front so I've always got a supply of clear sleeves and the old coupons are removed. If I need a coupon, I remove those out of the sleeve, cut them out with one motion and if I've got them stacked right, I get three or more coupons cut out at one time.

Personal care items too! All free or nearly so!
2. Find websites that have already done the coupon matchups for you. Sites like or have already done the matchups for me so I can cruise through what is on sale in local and national stores. In the Rochester area the only national store we have is Aldi's or Walmart, everything else is regional grocery stores. One of those regional stores has an add where about 95 percent of the ad is their store brand merchandise. The other regional store has higher prices than both Aldi's, it's regional competitor and Walmart. So it makes very difficult to coupon match. Like everyone else, I'm incredibly busy and have no time to go through several store's advertisements to see who has the best price. These websites are a Godsend. The women and men that go through the work of price matching truly help more families than they know. They list the item, size, what coupons are available and if there are any printables. I often use that as my grocery list so I can go in, get just those items and get out before I'm tempted by more than my pocketbook can handle.

3. Learn your terms and how to read coupons. Trust me, the clerk ringing you up doesn't necessarily understand couponing. A "transaction" is different than a "purchase". If a coupon reads "Only one item per purchase", that means you can only use one coupon per one item. If a coupon reads, "Only four like coupons per transaction", however, it means you can only use four coupons in that one transaction. So, say you wanted to purchase five shampoos but the coupons that you had for that particular shampoo limited to four like coupons per transaction",  you could only use four of those coupons for that transaction. (No one is saying you can't ring up the fifth on a different transaction however).

Some manufacturer's are becoming increasingly strict with their coupon verbiage and policy which begs the question, "are they really wanting to alienate their consumer"? The reality is that there are very few of the "extreme couponers" out there as most of us do not have the time to spend 6-8 hours in a store. Most of us are just trying to stretch our budgets. The reality of the situation is that if you make it hard for those to coupon to use your brand, they will use someone else's.

4. Do not have brand loyalty. I don't know about you but Tide doesn't pay my bills. Nor does Crest, Campbells or Jiff. Yet growing up these were some of the frequent products that were always purchased in my mom's home. Many of these products rarely, if ever come to a coupon and even with a coupon are generally so much more than other products. Let couponing open your world to new products. I've tried so many new products that my family has enjoyed simply because I had a coupon.

5. Stack your coupons. You'll hear this term often when you begin couponing. What this essentially means is that you can use a store's coupon with a manufacturer's coupon. Create the perfect trifecta with a store sale or a low everyday price and you can walk out with the store with a perfectly free item or in cases with store programs, they giving you money back in the form of "store bucks" or gift cards. Some even have kiosks right in their store that print their coupons based on your spending habits.

CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens
all have some type of "store rewards".
Keep these in mind when considering
a purchase.
6. Lower value coupons are often your better bet at grocery stores. Most grocery stores double coupons up to a dollar. That means, if you have a coupon worth seventy-five cents and it doubles because it is lower than a dollar, it now has become a dollar fifty coupon. Unless your store is running a special or has a policy of doubling dollar coupons, if you have a choice between a dollar off one item or a coupon worth seventy five cents that will double to a dollar fifty, the lower denominator coupon is your better bet.

7. Don't limit yourself to grocery stores.  When you think "food",  you naturally think grocery stores. Surprisingly, your pharmacy stores like Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS are often excellent places to pick up soup, cereal, or soda/pop. All of them accept coupons. Most of them will price match if you simply ask the manager, and they've been doing that long before Walmart started advertising it. Many will reward you with "store bucks" in the form of register rewards. Keep in mind, you are paying the sale price or full price for that product when you reach the register, but that reward can be used towards your next purchase. Don't overlook store loyalty cards. Believe it or not, even dollar stores take coupons these days.

8. Consider rebate and rebate like programs. Often a product will come with a rebate. If you are interested it that, it generally means sending in your receipt (always make a copy and date when you sent in the original) and sometimes the product's UPC. You will be rewarded with a check coming back to you in the mail. Rite Aid used to have one of these programs, I'm not sure if it still does. Also check out other sites like Checkout 51 which requires you to scan in a register receipt for that week from ANY STORE and when you reach a predestined amount, they send you a check. Not a bad system for the consumer for something you would have purchased anyway.

9. Different regions get different coupons with different values. Sometimes even the same paper has different coupons. Also, coupons repeat typically every six weeks.  I've actually had the experience of buying three papers only to have one that will have a completely different insert. Also different regions may have considerably higher value coupons. It pays to look online to see if there was a higher value coupon somewhere else. In New York, we tend to get either lower value coupons or coupons that often make you buy a ridiculous amount to save very little. "Buy six to save a dollar"... really? But by searching online you may find out that say, California got a higher value coupon or that there is a coupon to "Buy 3, save 40 cents" which, because you are buying fewer and can use more coupons, may be your best option. Also, you will see the same coupon appear typically six weeks, most times with the same ad. Keep this in mind when you need to stock back up.

10. Use clipping services and get rain checks. Reliable clipping services help you to build your stockpile when something goes on sale at a rock bottom price. You pay them for their labor in clipping and compiling coupons. (Legally you cannot "sell" coupons). Make sure the coupon has a long expiration date or will not expire before  you receive them. This also relates to rain checks. If you go into a store only to find that they are sold out of a product, make sure to get a raincheck and check back often.

These strategies help me to, "Pinch that penny until Lincoln cries". Because of my couponing, I have actually not had to buy shampoo or deodorant for  over three years because I "purchased" these items with coupons which made them free or almost free. Couponing takes time but it is an amazing feeling when you lay out all the items you got for free or near free and realize how much money you have saved at the end of the day.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Let's face it, mornings are hard.

Mornings are hard for everyone!
I'm a night person by nature and my morning self really doesn't like my nighttime self very much. I stay up way too late trying to get that one more thing done so that the next day goes easier only to wake up exhausted and with bed separation anxiety first thing in the morning.  Huge in the realm of world problems I know.

Too often this has resulted in my husband and I stopping at the local convenience store to buy some over priced, salted, and fat-laden breakfast sandwiches.

Boy they are good.

But not for the wallet.

So every so often I'll make a huge batch of these breakfast sandwiches as the cost is paramount to maybe four of these store bought delights and the taste is so much better. I've tried several methods of to finally get to this one that actually takes the least amount of time for the largest payoff. So here is how to make delicious breakfast sandwiches for a quick out the door, substantial breakfast.


  • 4 packs of English muffins (I buy at the thrift bakery)                    
  • 1 large bag of precooked pork or turkey breakfast sausage
  • 2-3 cartons of eggs
  • sliced cheese of your choice
  • salt, pepper and cooking spray
  • Tin foil and Sharpe marker

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a muffin tin in each compartment with cooking spray and set aside.

Break eggs into a mixing bowl, season with S&P. If you like, you
can also add some shredded cheese to this mix for "cheesy eggs".
Pour a small portion into each muffin tin until you fill each of
the 12 compartments up. You will have to do this at least twice if
you want to use up all 24 English muffins. Bake in the oven  until
set, about 10 mins.

Once the oven has reached temp, split all your muffins and place
on a large cookie sheet. Once eggs are completely set, remove
from the oven and set oven now to broil. Put in your muffins in to
crisp.  Remove from oven.

Lay out one premade patty on 12 of the muffins.(half shown here due to small cookie sheet)  Follow that with one of your egg patties and top with cheese. Lay the other portion of the muffin on top. Remove enough tin foil to wrap your muffins and label with the type of muffin they are. Put in your freezer for a quick to grab breakfast on the go. With our microwave we find about a minute & thirty seconds is about what it takes to warm these up from a frozen state.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

It's Tomato Time.. Tomato Time...

From Google Images
Yeah I know it's all of 2 degrees outside as I write this and the woodstove is doing it's best to heat the old farmhouse, but believe it or not, it's time to plant the tomatoes!

Tomatoes are one thing I grow really well in my clay soil. This is good as tomatoes are my number one thing I can every year. In general, I can at minimum 50-75 quarts of tomatoes, several pints of pizza sauce, several quarts of spaghetti sauce and last year I did a few quarts of enchilada sauce. So we utilize our tomato harvest!

Why grow tomatoes? For many reasons. 
  1. You have a limited choice in the supermarket in tomatoes because supermarkets carry onlythe breed of produce that ships well.Why is this an issue? Well, tomatoes, like wine, have different flavors due to different sugar content and their makeup. Some tomatoes are sweet, some tart, some acidic, some mellow. If you buy just what is in your market, your doing your taste buds a disservice based on what is simply convenient for the supermarket.
  2.  Different tomatoes have different uses.                             
    While you can, and I have, used salad tomatoes for sauce,
    in general paste tomatoes are best. Their cell walls                     
    are thicker with fewer seeds and their purpose is for
    thick sauces. Beefsteak tomatoes are generally used for
    salads, BLTs, juice anywhere that you want to use it raw. 
    Pizza Sauce with homemade dough
    for pizza night!

    Currant or grape tomatoes are for salads, popping
    hole into pastas (with basil and Parmesan) or
    eating but the handfuls.
  3. Tomatoes are no harder to grow than lettuce.For years I shied away from growning tomatoes too thinking that they were too difficult to grew. Know what? They aren't. Tomatoes just take a long time to grow (about 8 weeks) so you have to plan about two months prior to wanting to transplant to put them in the ground. My experience is that they have to be transplanted, they don't generally do well just plunking a seed in the ground although anytime I spread my compose on any of the gardens, I generally have "volunteers" that show up in the flower garden, etc. (I simply call them "flower garden" tomatoes and consider myself blessed that my flowers have a new friend that I can harvest from later.) In the north this is especially true due to our short growing season. By the time the plants had set fruit, we'd be worrying about frost.
  4. Plant/fruit diversity.In your typical garden center     
    you are going to find only these varieties:
    a. Early Girl
    b. Big Boy
    c. Better Boy
    d. Best Boy
    e. Cherry Tomato
    f. Maybe Mortgage Lifter
    g. Maybe a "cherry" yellow pear tomato in the more exotic stores.

    So many seeds, so many different types of tomatoes!

    That's it. I've gone to big box stores, the garden centers, and department stores. This is pretty much the selection I see every year. Again, why? Because this is the generic plant versions that they know that they can sell. There is such a bigger world out there full of tomatoes you didn't even know existed. I purchase my tomatoes from a great company out of Florida every year called "Tomato Grower's Supply" They have literally hundreds of different types of tomatoes. Did you even know that there were hundreds of different types. Here are some of the general different types of tomatoes. I'll admit here that I have issues with tomatoes as I always buy much more than I should but in my defense, there are such interesting varieties, how can one choose?

    a. Early season, mid season, late season
    b. Currant vs cherry vs. pear
    c. Oxhart vs. oxhart paste vs salad tomato
    d. Red vs. pink vs. black vs. orange vs. green vs. yellow vs. stripey
    e. Determinate vs. Indeterminate
    f. Potato Leaf
    g. Tomatillos (which no one seems to grow in my area)
  5. You can follow your food from seed to plate knowing exactly how it was raised and what was put on it.

    While I don't consider myself an alarmist, our food is generally pretty safe in this country, much safer that it has been historically, that doesn't mean that there isn't cause for concern. Major corporations have embraced the Genetically Modified Foods and spliced all sorts of things into seeds in an effort to boost production and eliminate problems with plant diseases and pests. While in some respects this is good, in many respects we have no idea what is being added to our food. Think this isn't an issue? Have you ever heard of DDT? Ever seen the movie "Soylent Green"?  When toxins get introduced into a ecosystem, each layer gets effected until the top end user, in this case us, gets the highest concentration. I've often wondered if this is the reason we see such a high explosion of kids that have peanut allergies. When I was a kid in the 1970's, no one I knew had any issues with peanuts, it wasn't heard of. Now every other kid seems to have an issue. And, anytime you let a corporation be in charge of making genetic changes in a food product, you run the risk of profit overcoming any basic common sense. In general, they aren't in social welfare mindset as much as the profit based mindset and that is mindset is dangerous to the public health. Choosing your seeds from a reputable company, growing them yourself and bringing them to your table assures you the freshest, most vitamin packed vegetables you can come across with the piece of mind of how they were raised.
So today I started my seeds. I plant a lot of seeds. I put them in these grow containers with the greenhouse tops and water in the tray beneath the seeds so they can slowly wick up. I use seed starter medium to give them the best chance to germinate.  Start them now as tomatoes take at least 8 weeks to be ready to transplant. I typically transplant them into a bigger container when the plant has at least three leaves so they can spread out and grow in a potting soil medium. I want to give the plants a good chance to develop a solid root system before setting them out into the garden in May. I always end up with way more than I need but as we probably use
tomatoes more than any other vegetable it is never an
issue with them taking over the majority of my garden.

So, ladies and gentlemen, get out there and get your seeds today for the best selection and try growing your tomatoes from seed. You'll be glad you did when you bite into that first tomato of the season and realize that there is a whole world of different tomato tastes you've been missing. Growing your food from seed allows you to become an everyday gourmet. Grow something today!