Psst- Today’s our leaving-Portland travel day (sad face) so we’ll probably be spotty and slow on comments/etc after 1pm EST. We’re sorry for the interruption, but so happy to have gotten the chance to explore Portland. We owe you guys a big post about all the stuff we did/bought/ate! We purchased some local art, crashed an amaaaaazing house, ate bacon on a donut, and John scored not one but two new t-shirts (neither of which are soda related, but both of which are food-related).
Lately I’ve been asked a bunch of times about how I organize/store our non-food coupons (since the grocery store ones are just stuck into one of those clear envelopes and stashed in my purse on store runs – more on that here). You know, like the ones from Michael’s, JoAnn, Old Navy and Bed Bath & Beyond and restaurants all the other not-grocery-store related places? And every time I was asked I sort of admitted that I didn’t have the best system but that I tried to slip them into the compartment on the passenger side door of our car so at least they were with us all the time (since we only have one car and are rarely at a store without the car since nothing is really that walkable from our house). The real issue was that I would forget what was in there (things would expire all the time, and it was sort of one giant mess o’ papers) and the other annoying thing was that I was always having to run back out to the car while in places like Bed Bath & Beyond and Michael’s (because I always forgot to grab the coupon before going in). The kicker? Sometimes I would run all the way back out with Beansie in tow, only to find that my coupon was expired already. Boo.
So I needed a system. And then while trolling the notebook section of Target, one found me.
It was this cute thing that I thought was a notebook and then I opened it and a light bulb went off. And it might be my best organizational coup in the last five years. Yes, it’s kinda life-changing if you’re an organizational wannabe like me (I never have my ish together, but I have dreams of conquering that one day…).
First of all it’s slim and light. Like a small notebook without all the pages (it just has a thin notepad on one side and an accordion fold-out pocket system on the other side). So I thought to myself: “self- you could put all your non-grocery coupons into the accordion side and use the pad to write down exactly what’s in there, crossing off things as they expire (so you can see all the valid coupons that you have at a glance) – and you can keep it in your purse since that’s always with you and then you won’t have to run to the car.” Yesssss. And then I high fived myself in the notebook aisle and Clara thought we were clapping so she clapped along.
So I bought it and I did all the things I told myself I would do in my head (labeled the tabs on each accordion section and used the notebook to write down what I have) and I’ve used this method for about a month (gotta trouble-shoot things before exclaiming to the internet at large that they’re life-changing) and I’m telling you it’s the bee’s knees. I can even circle things that are about to expire to remind myself to use them or lose them.
I think it was like $6 or something, and I’m still on the first sheet of paper on the pad (I had visions of running out of paper since coupons rotate in and out, but it’s amazing how one JoAnn coupon expires or gets used just as I slip a new one in there so it hasn’t been too bad with the whole crossing out thing. Of course when the page gets all crazy and scratched out over time I’ll just tear it off and start over on page two, but it seems like this pad could easily last me a year or two and then I could just replace it without replacing the whole shebang – so that’s nice. Oh and it’s recycled paper and made by a company called Greenroom if that helps anyone track it down at Tar-jay.
As for what I labeled each section, what made sense for me was: craft, food, clothes, Bed Bath & Beyond, and misc (just because I usually have a fair amount of coupons in each of those categories). And for food I don’t mean grocery coupons, I mean restaurant coupons like printed out Groupons and little fliers that I get in those Valpack mailers for places like a nearby Mexican restaurant or a local BBQ joint. As for my grocery store coupons, you can read more on those here, but they slip into a clear envelope that stays at home unless we’re going grocery shopping (we don’t usually do that at the spur of the moment like dropping in on other stores or eating out, so I just shove that envelope in my purse when we know we’re headed to Kroger).
So that’s my system to answer all of you inquisitive-coupon-loving folks out there. I hope it’s helpful to anyone else who is wrestling with non-grocery-store coupons that tend to pile up everywhere. It’s amazing how having a place for something (and not shoving them all into the side door of the car) can make them a lot easier to actually use. I think I’m better at remembering that I have them, so I’m even saving money on top of feeling like the Queen Of Organization (not in all categories, haha, but in non-grocery-coupons I’ve got it down… for now). Oh and I figured other folks out there might have other methods or tricks that they have changed their organization strategy – so spill it. I need to know how else to up my organizational ante. Seriously, help a scatterbrained momma out.
We bought nearly $3,800 worth of kitchen appliances this weekend. But if you know anything about us, you know we love a deal. So here’s how we managed to shave off about $1,400 from that total (we ended up paying 63% of their original cost). Yee haw!
Before I dive into the heavy math, let’s cover some basic questions first. Why new appliances? We’ll make this one multiple choice:
- A: We prefer stainless steel over the current bisque / black mix we’ve got going on.
- B: The wall oven has a big burn mark up the front of it and cooks/burns things unevenly.
- C: Our refrigerator is slowly dying (the ice maker doesn’t work and ever since Hurricane Irene it has been cooling unevenly – icy milk anyone?).
- D: All of the above.
If you answered D, you’ve either been paying close attention or just know that “All of the above” is usually a solid answer. We knew about these “issues” when we bought the house (except C) so we went into this house purchase knowing we’d need to replace our appliances during a future kitchen makeover. So we’ve been saving our pennies for the last 10 months (many folks wondered why we didn’t just dive into a kitchen makeover as soon as we moved, but we like to really think about how we’ll use a room – and we also gotta save up before big purchases like these). Even before landing on our peninsula plan a few weeks ago, we’ve been researching replacements and waiting for the best deal and the right appliances for us. So for the past few months we’ve been:
- keeping an eye on craigslist for discounted applainces that might work
- hitting up secondhand stores & thrift stores (like the ReStore)
- visiting our local Sears “Scratch & Dent” store
Sadly, none of those “discount” routes were panning out (nothing on craigslist had the right dimensions or matched, secondhand stores weren’t selling much more than a few old black or white microwaves and dishwashers, and even the scratch & dent store was selling things at pretty comparable prices to new appliances from Lowe’s or Home Depot since most things are on sale around this time of the year whether they’re scratched or dented or not). Then we got a sign from the Lowe’s website that this was the weekend to pounce:
Well, actually a few signs. Lowe’s is our favorite spot to buy appliances since their prices tend to be the lowest we’ve found and they’ll price match. It’s actually where we bought all of the appliances for our first house which we used and loved for the entire 4.5 years that we lived there. So seeing their website loaded with discounts was enough to get our butts in gear and make some decisions.
One easy decision was the brand of appliance that we preferred. We lived very happily with a kitchen full of Frigidaires in our last house, so 4.5 satisfied years made us more comfortable with that company than any review could (in almost 5 years of use none of them ever needed to be serviced and still looked mint when we moved). Plus, we wanted to buy all the same brand so the stainless color was consistent from appliance to appliance (some stainless fronts are more brushed than others and can look kind of cobbled together if they’re not consistent). In an icing-on-the-cake scenario, we actually ended up getting Frigidaire Gallery models that have a protective coating atop the stainless steel to prevent fingerprints (something we really wanted since we were always wiping down our last ones). So go ahead Clara, do your worst. But before we learned about the fingerprint-proof stainless covering, first it came down to picking out the most functional, fitting, and affordable models for our kitchen. Here’s what we ended up with:
- A 22.6 Cu. Ft. Energy Star Counter-Depth Side-by-Side Refrigerator: We learned that our current fridge is actually counter depth, so we definitely couldn’t get a standard depth, which would jut even further into the room. This new one is actually more spacious than our current one and the one at our last house (so we’re psyched to gain more space without giving up the counter-depth dream), but that’s a story for another day. More on that soon.
- An Electric Convection Stove (with Quick-Boil feature): We currently have a convection wall oven and countertop range… but those are extremely expensive to replace, so we’re going to convert our kitchen to a standard stove situation. Again, that’s a story for another day (soon!). Oh but the added convection and quick-boil features are something we happily would have paid an extra $100-200 for on top of a basic range price, but thanks to sale prices it was just $10 more than a similar model without those features.
- A Microwave: Nothing interesting to say about this one other than it’s very similar to the last one we had and loved.
- An Energy Star Dishwasher: Yay. Our first house didn’t have a dishwasher until we added one and it changed our life. And we love that it’s Energy Star like the fridge.
Even after almost a year of saving for this investment, the prices above are more than a little scary to two cheapskates like us. Thankfully each appliance was already marked down in the store (maybe October is a good markdown month?). The greatest markdown was the fridge (down $500!). The salesman said the price flip flops between $1799 and $1299 and we just caught it at the right time. On top of that, we also caught this at the right time:
The fridge and dishwasher were both Energy Star so that knocked those prices down another 15% (sadly cooking appliances like stoves & microwaves typically aren’t Energy Star rated). Happily the stove got the 10% off treatment thanks to the advertised sale that we happened to spot on their website. But the microwave, who was already on sale for $269, didn’t qualify (poor guy – things had to be $397 or more).
But all four of them earned this next discount:
We’ve had a Lowe’s card for a while (back from an appliance purchase in our last house, actually) so we scored our usual 5% off on our total purchase price. Down came those already discounted prices (we love that they allowed them to “stack”).
Then on top of that…
…Virginia was having a tax-free weekend on Energy Star appliances, effectively taking another 5% off the fridge and dishwasher (since tax here is 5%)! So that’s how our grand total ended up being about 63% of what it would’ve cost originally. A total savings of $1,392. Which essentially means we got the stove and the microwave for free (their original prices add up to $1,248 before all the discounts). The best part is that many of the counter depth fridges that we looked at were more than $2,500 on their own, so we’re stunned that we got all of our appliances for less. Take that baby to the market!
They still have to be delivered (for free, as always at Lowe’s) which is why this post has no pictures of the new items in place- but we’ll definitely share pics when they come. Oh and for anyone wondering, we’ll be donating our old appliances to the ReStore since they do free pick-ups (although we might craigslist the cooktop and microwave since they’re in newer condition). We’ve had a productive weekend in the kitchen, so there are a few other ideas/decisions/changes to share. So hopefully we’ll be back with lots of kitchen happenings over the next few days! We’re still only about 2% there, but the ball is officially rolling!
Okay, so who else saved some moolah this weekend? Er, well, spent some moolah but not as much moolah as they might’ve originally spent? Ack, you know what I mean. Oh and to any fellow Virginians, all of the sale prices that we took advantage of should be valid through the end of today (the tax free thing along with the 15 & 10% off sales and 5% off any Lowe’s card purchase). Just throwing that out there in case it helps!
Psst- Anyone replacing old appliances with Energy Star ones might also be eligible for government refunds (of over $100 if you’re replacing your dishwasher & fridge) so you can go here and click the button with the map on it to see what they’re giving back in your state.
As many of you know, hurricane Irene was a total jerk to our neck of the woods. Not only did it knock trees into nearby homes, cars, poles, and roads, it also took the power out for a nice long time. Three days for us. But that was nothing compared to some other areas of our neighborhood (where it was out for over seven days), and other parts of Richmond (which didn’t get it back for close to two weeks). There was even a contest for the last person to get their power back on a local website.
So yes, three power-less days were annoying, but it could have been waaay worse. The only thing it really ended up affecting was our fridge. Yup, everything spoiled. So we lost every last container of salad dressing and mustard and soy sauce and cream cheese and every other item that you take for granted because you don’t usually buy them all at once (you know, you tend to amass them over time so you’re not met with the harsh reality that you just spent $200 on condiments). Yikes.
So yup, this is a post about the state of our fridge. Because it’s house related and save-a-buck related and just something I wanted to blather on about. I actually get a surprising amount of requests for couponing updates (and you’ll see how those tie in momentarily). The good news is that we didn’t lose everything. There were some items in the fridge that didn’t absolutely need to be cold to survive, like:
- various containers of berries and other fruit
- some veggies
- sandwich wraps
- wheat flatbread
So during our day-three clean out when the power came back on we were able to pull them out alive. But everything else had to go.
The weirdest casualty was a container of biscuits that actually popped open on its own from the lack of refrigeration. It was very Twilight Zone.
Melted ice cream sammies = sad ice-cream loving hubby. Especially because they weren’t just melted, they were curdled and rank. So no amount of refreezing was gonna save them.
But let’s rewind. Before the hurricane we saw a tip on TV about freezing ziplock bags of water so you could transfer them from your freezer to your fridge to keep things colder (much like a giant cooler) to hopefully save food if the power is out for an extended amount of time. Wellllll, that was a bust. We diligently filled five or six ziplock bags with water (leaving enough unfilled space for them to expand, as directed) and placed them in the freezer. We didn’t immediately want to transfer them over when we lost power around 4pm (didn’t want to open the fridge/freezer just yet), so we went to bed in our interior rooms (explained here) while the hurricane continued to loiter over our fair city for another eight hours and decided to make the switch in the morning.
I don’t know what went wrong, but by morning there was a big old wet spot in front of the freezer. You can even see the towel shoved next to the fridge in the picture above. The bags that were supposed to be ice that we could transfer to the fridge had already melted completely and were now leaking out of the fridge and onto the floor. Booo! At least two of them inexplicably punctured themselves or something during the freezing and unfreezing process (although we left lots of room for them to expand when frozen). So looking back, we wish we had never seen that tip since it made for a mess that we wouldn’t have even had to deal with had we skipped it. Oh well, it was worth a try. And it might work better for someone who could transfer them faster (when they were still ice) although I wonder if they would melt and drip out of the fridge side instead of the freezer side in that case. Hmm. Maybe our fridge just doesn’t hold cold air as well as others do, so ice melts quickly and doesn’t really make much of a difference in a power-outage situation.
There was one rescue mission that went on about 15 hours into the blackout though. In order to stop the leaking situation we realized we had to toss open the doors to the freezer and grab those bags of water and toss them into the sink (to keep them from continuing to leak/drip)…
… so although it’s totally not ideal to open any fridge doors without power (keep that cold air in, baby!) we knew we had to get in there for a sec. So we figured while we were at it we should probably quickly reach in to save a few things on the fridge side by packing a cooler and bringing them to Grammy and Tom Tom’s house (where they miraculously never lost power at all, and sweetly offered up half a shelf of their fridge). In hyper-speed, before slamming the doors shut we grabbed:
- 12 organic yogurt cups
- organic whole milk (Clara’s) and organic skim milk (ours)
- a pack o’ cheese sticks
- a package of strawberries and blueberries
- 2 laughing cow cheese wheels
All of those items made sense since Clara eats/drinks them a lot so we would have had to rebuy them right away if we didn’t save them… except for the laughing cow cheese. I have no idea why I panicked and grabbed that. Total auto-pilot grab-the-dairy madness. But at least we saved a few things (which would probably have set us back about $30 if we had to rebuy it all).
So when the power came back on during day three (I heard angels singing) we gave everything a little bit of time to firm back up thanks to the cold and bravely opened the doors. Yuck. It was staaaanky in there. So we held our breath and walked things directly out to the garbage pail outside (which stunk to high heaven until the trash truck came a few days later). But we were able to save the few items that I mentioned in my first little list o’ bullets since they didn’t need cold air to not spoil (we just kept them in the fridge for added lifespan or because we didn’t have a breadbox, etc). But everything else was done-zo. Even the bagged salad was slimy and gross. And the giant tub of yogurt. I can’t talk about that. Scarred for life. Note: after snapping this picture we realized we could compost/recycle some of the stuff in the trash so out it came and into our compost/recycle bins it went (must have been in shock from the smell at first and couldn’t think straight).
It was about this time that we realized just how much stuff we would have to rebuy. Boo.
But John was smart about it. As we tossed things he suggested that we write them down, so we ended up with a shopping list to remind us of all the take-for-granted, perpetually-stocked stuff that we’d probably completely forget to rebuy until we reached for it and didn’t find it (like ketchup, salad dressing, hummus, syrup, butter, etc).
It was handy to see all the stuff that we needed to rebuy but also kind of a buzz kill in that how-much-is-this-gonna-cost-us way. Then I decided it could become a fun little self-imposed coupon challenge since I seem to have hit a plateau with my couponing adventures (I can save around $40-55 on a big shopping trip, but can’t seem to get past that since we buy a lot of produce/organic stuff and refuse to buy stuff just because we have a coupon for it if we don’t actually need it just to see the “you saved X amount” number go higher on the receipt). But I started thinking… maybe all these common household items that we only buy occasionally could be the coupon jackpot?
There are a heckova lot more coupons for ketchup, mayo, and salad dressing than organic ground turkey and kale, so I figured that my challenge would be this: to try to save as much as possible by hunting down coupons for as many of those items as I could. Of course this big coupon idea set me back a few days while John kept saying “we need to go shopping, woman” and I kept saying “give me time to hunt coupons, man” and we just ate stuff from the pantry like pasta and cereal along with the few things we saved by bringing them to Grammy’s house (yogurt, milk, fruit, etc). Sure I had a little stockpile of coupons already laying around from before Irene, but this was before I knew my entire fridge would get wiped out (so none of them were for staples that we already had and later lost).
Then we went to the beach for the weekend so that bought me a bit more time (I reasoned with John that going shopping for a big haul before leaving town for a holiday weekend might not be that smart). But even on our mini beach vacay I bought the Sunday paper and got a few coupon inserts from John’s mom after she clipped her own stuff and went online to all of the coupon sites that I occasionally peruse (you can read more about those here in this initial couponing post from a while back).
When I got back home I printed and clipped to my heart’s content and even digitally loaded my Kroger card with virtual coupons that I could use when they scanned it at the store (more on that here). So when we finally hit The K-rogue (that’s how $herdog says Kroger), I was armed and
dangerous coupon-riddled. Note: I have no idea why it took me over a week to get my act together and write this post up. Maybe it’s the same defect that made me inexplicably grab the laughing cow cheese?
Happily, we came home with a ton of stuff (we didn’t even have enough reusable bags for all of it!)…
It actually felt pretty good. The fridge went from almost completely empty to looks-like-normal-full for $257.40. It’s definitely not nothing. And if you watch those pro coupon shows (where they get 1K worth of food for three dollars) it’s downright sad. But we actually expected it to be a lot worse I think. Some of our normal grocery shopping trips can top $200 when we’re running pretty low on stuff (we usually go every two weeks or so, to avoid impulse buys that can add up when you go more frequently). And we were almost starting from zero this time (we had filled almost an entire trash can with spoiled food), so we expected that we’d have to buy a lot more than usual (and spend a lot more than usual too).
The only sad thing. I still only saved $47.51.
Can’t a girl catch a break and save over fifty five bucks for once, K-rogue? Oh well, $47.51 is still money saved. And it definitely would have hurt more to see a total that started with a three at the register (it was originally over $300 but thanks to the coupons it came down near $250). And there’s always next time. At least the fridge is full again and my wraps won’t go hummus-less while my salads go dressing-less. And the fridge itself has never looked cleaner. We scrubbed that baby to the bone when she was empty.
Of course I got a few catalinas at the checkout (not all ones that I’ll actually use, but we’re definitely suckers for yogurt, so…). The cycle continues.
And you know we love a good after picture or two, so behold… the freshly stocked fridge:
All in all, it was a nice little fridge makeover. Now I’m off to call my insurance company because someone mentioned that some of them might reimburse you for food that spoils in natural disasters like hurricanes. That would be pretty nice. Update: just realized our deductible is much higher than $250, so never mind.
Anyone else doing any fridge cleaning or restocking? Or hitting a coupon plateau? Better yet, have you broken through it and ache to tell me your secrets? Please do.
Psst- Check out this initial post all about couponing for specific deets about how I save money/use coupons – and check out a ton of awesome tips in the comment section while you’re at it. I’m totally JV but there are lots of varsity couponers out there.
Psssst- We announced this week’s giveaway winners. Click here to see if you’re one of them.