Monday, April 25, 2011

Cool Freezers in Hurricane Season

June first and hurricane season will be here before you know it. Hurricanes in this part of Florida mostly mean big storms and no power. No power in rural areas, means no water, when you live on a well. Some people were without power for over 1 month in this area in 2004. I can't solve that with this solution, but it helps for a couple days.

The fuller your freezer is, the more efficiently it runs. The already frozen food keeps the temperature cooler than the empty space does.

If you fill water tight, plastic containers with water and put them in your freezer, you'll have a more efficient freezer (helping the electric bill), drinking water when there isn't any, and a freezer that will keep food frozen longer than one that's half empty when there isn't any power.

*Be sure to leave some empty space for the water to expand in the containers when it freezes.

Free Money From Coupons

I discovered a new way to use coupons that only brings in money and doesn't require me to spend money first (other than buying the paper or using ink to print them).

I wander the grocery store parking lot periodically. People leave receipts and coupons (and lots of other junk) in the carts and around the parking lot all of the time. Well, as I wander, I pick up receipts and coupons that are left behind. Some of the coupons are expired. (I send those to the military overseas.) Some of the receipts are for things I can't do anything with, like bananas. Many though, are for things I have coupons for that the person checking out didn't (in fact most of them don't use any coupons at all.)

Most grocery stores will give you cash back or money back on your credit or food card if you bring the coupon and receipt back to the store after your purchase is made. So, I take the found receipts and my coupons to the store and get money back for the coupons the person who checked out didn't use! My last trip yielded me $8 with 3 receipts. I won't get rich that way, but it's basically free money.

Some people find this "wrong" to do, but think of it this way... If I walked the side of the road and picked up scrap metal and cans that I didn't buy and took them to the scrap metal yard, I'd receive cash for something I didn't buy and someone else would get the metal. (Plus, it's an environmental plus.) This way, I pick up trash and turn it in. The store gets reimbursed for the coupon from the manufacturer, the manufacturer got the sale they wanted, the paying customer got the product he or she wanted, and I got the cash from my own legwork I need.

Plus, most of the cash I got back this last trip went to buy milk and eggs from the store that I needed and didn't have coupons for anyway. Sounds like everyone wins to me.

So, next time you see me wandering grocery store parking lots, you'll know why.

Day Old Chicks

Because we didn't have enough birds survive from the hatching eggs and there wasn't much time left until Memorial day, I called all over to find someone who could ship us 100 day old coturnix quail on short notice for a good price. I was referred from one hatchery to another.

I called because their website had the soonest hatch date as Apr 26 and we needed them to hatch on the 12th. The person I called said to just put Apr 12th in the comment section, so I did. Well that week came and went with no chicks. I called the following week and inquired. They said they'd go out that week.

Well, we expected them on Friday and they arrived on Wednesday at the post office. I picked up 2 boxes of adorable coturnix pips. They're so cute. They were all healthy looking and alive. I was delighted.

Friday, I picked up feed (quite the fiasco). I read they should not get medicated feed. We couldn't get non-medicated feed with the batch from the eggs and wondered if that was part of why we lost so many chicks. I went to 2 feed stores to find non-medicated feed. The second store gave me some though. When I got home and read the tag, I found it said it was for quail 8 weeks and up. So I called and they had another product for $1 more. I requested they swap me bag for bag despite the difference because it meant another 20 miles round trip to get it. They agreed.

When I took the feed into the brooder room, I discovered of the 100 chicks, over half were dead. We don't know why. They had everything they needed. All we can think was perhaps (because they'd been given some of the medicated feed, since we didn't have anything else) it was the medication. It was so sad. I cried on the phone with my husband at work as I picked up each of the dead chicks. My so came to the brooder room to help with the 16 weakest ones we thought would probably die. We moved them to a crate in his room where we could watch them more closely and keep them from being picked on and trampled by the others. Of those, 3 have survived. Not great odds, but if we hadn't have moved them they probably all would have died anyway.

In hind sight, we probably should have just purchased the frozen adult quail I found on line for $2 each. We may still need to get some that way.

Now, we have brooding stock, so we can produce our own quail and not have to have any more shipped.

Buying Hatching Eggs

About a month ago, we purchased some coturnix quail eggs to hatch as well as 2 hovabator incubators. It was $116 to buy 250 eggs, so we figured that was a pretty good deal. My husband is cooking a huge feast for about 100 people over Memorial day weekend and planned to serve quail. If you buy it in the store, it's really expensive ($5+ per bird). We thought this would be a cheaper way to go and we'd have incubators for another time.

Well, we received 269 eggs UPS. The box had huge letters on every side that said "Hatching Eggs." We figured the box would arrive on a Thursday or Friday. Friday came and went with no eggs. We weren't sure what was going to happen because UPS doesn't deliver on Saturdays. Saturday morning, my husband went down to the gate and found the box which looked like it'd been dropped over the gate. It wasn't there at 9pm on Friday, so it must have been delivered late Friday. It got REALLY cold that night. Of the 269 eggs, 228 were not cracked. Many had been jostled out of their slots. The packaging looked more than adequate and we don't feel it was the hatchery's fault at all but blame UPS for the poor delivery. My cell number was clearly on the label and a quick call would have been more that adequate.

Anyway, of the 240 (I decided to incubate 12 I was pretty certain wouldn't hatch just in case) we incubated, about 75 hatched (31%). (Quail have a 60% hatching rate normally.) Of those, about 45 survived to adulthood (18%). We won't do that again. It was a total waste of money. I won't accept UPS for eggs again anyway, that's for sure.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Gas is Expensive

Did you know you can change the mpg you get in your car?

Here are some things to think about:
58 mph is the ideal speed for gas consumption.
Every mph over 60 is the equivalent of paying 5 cents more per gallon.
When traffic isn't an issue, you can coast to stop lights, signs, and turns using existing momentum to get there rather than additional gas.
When  you need to sit idle for more than 1 minute, it's more efficient to turn the car off.
Keep the car cleaned out. Excess weight in the car equals excess gas usage.
Keep the air filter clean.
Keep the tires inflated to the ratings listed on the driver door.
Doing regular maintenance checks can seem expensive but it will help keep the expenses down in the long run and help the car run more efficiently.

I'm sure there are other ideas, but there are some good ones to start with.

Cheap, Easy, Kid-Friendly Cleaning

I try to encourage my children to be as self-sufficient as I can. They are responsible for cleaning their own bathroom. I don't want them dealing with harsh chemicals or anything, and I don't want to spend a fortune on cleaning products, so I buy Mr Clean and wipes when they're on sale. Then I just add Mr. Clean to the wipes box. Presto! Cleaning wipes the kids can use that don't cost a fortune.

Cheap Snacks

If you have kids, you're familiar with the cry "Mom, I'm hungry!" I can't always get free or nearly so snacks, so for variety and when I can't we make our own.

We generally keep a huge container of popcorn ready to eat. We buy non-microwave popcorn (it's cheaper and keeps much longer than the microwave style, and it's healthier) and pop several batches at once. We season it with season salt, Parmesan cheese, taco seasoning, cheese packets from macaroni boxes, or sometimes a little chili powder. Popcorn is actually a healthy snack when you don't smother it with butter and salt.

Corn Chips
We make our own corn chips too. When they're on sale, I buy large bags (100 count) of the corn tortillas. We cut them into wedges and bake them in the oven at 350 deg for 17 min. We sometimes spray them with lemon juice before cooking them. Then we sprinkle season salt on them as soon as they come out of the oven. They're not your usual corn chips, but after you've had a couple and get accustomed to the taste, they're really good. It usually takes several baking sheets full before I can catch up with the snacking and get to actually store some. 

Blackberries will be in season soon. They're great and grow wild all over this area. It'll take some time and you will get stuck in some thorns, but they're really good and free. I pick and pick and never even touch the amount that are available. You can freeze them and keep them for a long time.

Coupon Mastery 101 at High Springs LDS Relief Society

On 5/19, Thursday, I'll teach my beginning coupon class at the LDS Relief Society meeting at 6:30pm. This will be a free class. If you're not a member of the LDS church or familiar with Relief Society, you can still come. Relief Society is the church's women's group.

Free Greek Yogurt at Publix 4/25-5/4

You can get 3 free Voskos yogurts at Publix 4/25-5/4 if you have 2 of the $1 off 1 coupons off Facebook and 1 of the B2G1 coupons (you'll need to use 90210 as the zip code).

It's not BOGO at Publix, it's 10/$10 which translates to $1 each.

When I went to get my Facebook coupons, it wasn't very clear. You have to "Like" it, then click on "coupons" on the left. My screen didn't show any pictures, it just said "Like It" and "Love It." Either way, you have to fill out the form and then in very faint letters at the bottom of the form it says "Get Coupon." It's not tough, it just requires looking.

Free Bic Razors at Publix 4/25-5/4

Free Bic Razors at Publix 4/25-5/4 when they're BOGO with 2 of the $3/1 BIC Disposable Razors 4/10/2011 SS Insert (exp 5/22/2011) coupons.
If you don't have that coupon, you can use 2 of these and get them almost free $2/1 Bic Disposable Shavers 3/27/2011 SS Insert (exp 5/15/2011).
Don't forget to use the UPromise coupon for more savings. (Remember, UPromise coupons don't change your total out of pocket expense, they only add money to your UPromise savings.) Save 3% Bic Shaver Razors Upromise eCoupon (exp 4/30/2011)

Free Playtex at Publix 4/25-5/4

Playtex Gentle Glide Tampons will be on sale BOGO at Publix 4/25-5/4.
Publix accepts Walgreens coupons, so if you take 2 of the Walgreens coupons (which you can find through their website or in the stores in their Walgreens coupon books) for $1 off along with one or two of the following manufacturer coupons:
$1/1 Playtex Gentle Glide Tampons All You May 2011 (exp 7/31/2011) 
$2.50/2 Playtex Gentle Glide Tampons 3/20/2011 SS Insert (exp 5/22/2011)
$3/2 Playtex Gentle Glide Tampons All You Feb 2011 (exp 4/30/2011)
If you don't have any of those, you can try this printable one for $1 off at Facebook.

You'll get tampons for free, almost free, or money back.

*Note that some Publix stores or store managers will not let you get credit on an item and may just give it to you for free instead. You can kindly argue this and they may let you do it, or you can just be gracious and accept the free items.

Free Powerade at Publix 4/25-5/4

Powerade is BOGO at Publix starting 4/25. If you go to facebook and "like" Powerade, you can print out the coupon for BOGO. Take the coupon to Publix and get 2 free Powerades for each coupon you take.

This is a great deal, but don't clear the shelves and leave none for everyone else. You can print 2 coupons if you use the back button on your browser.

Powerade BOGO exp 6/30

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Coupon Mastery 101 at Santa Fe College

Just wanted to let you know I'm teaching a beginning coupon class at Santa Fe College through the Community Ed department  on June 13th from 5:45-7:45pm.

All those who attend will go home with coupons.

You can sign up through this link.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What is Rural Budgeting?

We live on a 5 acre plot not far from decent sized cities, but you'd never know it from here. We're "in the middle of no where" but still not more than 30 minutes from town. I left my full-time job 5 years ago to spend more time with our kids. I left an ok part-time income almost 2 years ago and am barely working at all now. My husband works full-time but had a significant pay reduction this past summer. We have one kid in private school and one in public school. My job is to make ends meet and help everyone be happy.

I do couponing to help with the groceries, but living outside of the larger cities, it's not as effective as it would be if we lived in a metropolitan area. We try to reduce our out of pocket expenses as much as possible. Last year I taught a class and found that I've discovered some ideas for saving money and time that many others haven't thought of, so I thought I'd share. My personal goal (with my husband's support) is to ultimately "grocery shop" in our backyard.

This blog is to share my progress on couponing, gardening, raising animals (and kids too), and a little foraging on our 5 acre parcel of heaven in Florida.

Our current status: 2 kids (8 yr old boy & 7 yr old girl), 1 pair of geese, 2 chickens (1 hen, 1 rooster), 8 new zealand rabbits, 2 miniature horses (mares), 40ish coturnix quail with 100 day old chicks on the way, 1 greenhouse (pumpkins, peppers-many varieties, beets, beans-many varieties, peas, tomatoes-many varieties, melons, watermelon, marigolds, petunias, oregano-mexican & greek, chives, cucumbers, yellow squash, roses, raspberries, grapes, cabbage, strawberries, cilantro, parsley, stevia, carrots, dragon's blood tree, jasmine, tea tree, aloe, soapwort, sweet potato, winged pea, squash, basil-green & purple), 1 pool of hopefully growing tilapia and 1 tank of koi in the greenhouse, and trees-apple, peach, plum, pear, lemon, lime, loquat, pomegranate, and hickory. 

Growing on our property I've identified: poorman's pepper, oxalis, pawpaw, blackberries, nightshade, beauty berry, shepard's tick, cat's claw, polk weed, stinging nettle, thistle, prickly pear, dandelion, live oak, pine, and a couple others I know are edible but can't find the name for.

Is Couponing Really Worth It?

Almost a year ago now, I began my journey into the coupon world. My theory was we buy almost everything from Sam's Club and make almost everything from scratch, how could we reduce our food budget more than that? I felt the coupons were "never for the items we used" and "always for over-processed junk no one should eat." Plus, since Sam's doesn't take coupons, what was the point in that anyway?

Well, when I actually gave couponing a chance, I realized that there were items that were way less than what we had been paying for them and that some were free and others I was actually paid to buy. That's when I started to get hooked. (Couponing can become quite addictive, just be aware of that.)

Now, when I shop, I get deodorant and other items for free and I get paid to buy noodles and other food. Yes, it does take time. It's not something you can do in 5 minutes and save $1000's. My time spent varies greatly from week to week. Some weeks all I do is buy a newspaper and I don't even get the coupons clipped until the next week. Other weeks, I spend 3 nights cleaning out my binder, organizing, searching the internet, and clipping new coupons. Think of it like a volunteer job. It's wonderful when you can do it, but if you can't, you can't. I miss freebies and other opportunities, but I would not have known about them anyway, so it's ok. When you have the time to do it, fantastic! Take advantage of it and go full out.

Just to give you an idea of what you're in for...
shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, shaving cream - under $1 if not free
deodorant, toothbrushes - free
noodles - $0.15 to -$0.30 (yes, they pay you $0.30/box)
rice - $0.50/lb
olive oil - $0.12/oz
milk - $2-$3/gal for regular whole milk most weeks, if you use your savings to buy it it's free (soy, almond, and specialty milk is usually MUCH cheaper, if you drink it.)

Yes, there are coupons for meat, produce, fresh bread, milk, yeast, spices, and other items everyone uses too.

So is it worth it? Yes. Since our income is drastically reduced and I'm not working a full-time job, it's definitely worth it. You know how grocery stores print your "savings" at the bottom of your receipt? My goal is to have that number always higher than the amount I spent. It's usually at least 30% higher.