29 August 2016


She's off to her first day of Kindergarten.

She was very excited, in fact, she hasn't stopped talking about school since the last day of preschool in the spring. She's still carrying the backpack we bought for $5 two years ago. It's still gigantic on her tiny frame, but it's still the smallest, lightest backpack I can find that fits an 8.5 x 11" piece of paper.

I filled it with a Lisa Frank folder, a carefully selected lunchbox, and a Frozen water bottle. I wrote her name on everything and showed her all her new school supplies so they'll feel familiar in her new classroom.

We toured her new classroom and met her new teacher, her new bus driver stopped by the house and introduced himself. We've been practicing everyone's names. 

Today is a half day, but I packed her a snack in her lunch box and wrote a little sticky note: Mommy *heart shape* Abigail. She can sight read those words and shapes and will know what the note says. Matt went in to work late, and all of us and the dog stood out front and waited for the bus with her, waving goodbye like frantic idiots as the bus pulled away from the curb. I joked on Facebook that I "barely held back the tears," but it's not true. I am very happy for her and confident that she will thrive in Kindergarten. The therapy, the inclusive environment, the routine, and learning - she makes such huge strides in school. My heart is tearing apart as my kids get older and begin to leave me, but I didn't cry. We are rocking this school thing.

Eleanor is, of course, oozing jealousy. Over the past month or so, as I've gotten school supplies for Abigail and her classroom, I've bought presents for Eleanor, some big, some little. A Sofia the First t-shirt and new water bottle with owls that matches Abigail's lunch box (both on clearance at Meijer), a beautifully illustrated Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh (a not-on-sale splurge), a tiny cat figurine, a cake stand set with little wooden donuts and cupcakes on flash-deal site.

I'll give them to her throughout the week, little presents to make her feel special too. Plus she'll be getting a ton of one-on-one time with Mommy. It'll be tough for her to be without her partner in crime, but I think that the distance will make her heart grow fonder of Abigail.

The last little bit of news here, before I grab a crabby Theodore from his crib, that sprain I thought I had is actually a stress fracture. So now I have to wear this obnoxious boot around the house and I have an insert to put in my shoes when I go out. It's pretty annoying. Here's to quick healing.

25 August 2016


The most wonderful and rejuvenating stay-cation came to an end this week, and my spirits were so thoroughly bolstered that I was able to make it through a very painful day with this little Fox without melting down to tears myself.

I know he look adorable, but he is one miserable little man. His emerging teeth are taking years off my life. Or maybe red out of my hair. Or maybe both.

After he was born, I was deliriously happy. I want to have 10 more kids! But now I'm loath to talk about having more babies. Whose teething was worse: Eleanor's or Theodore's? I can't even remember because I've blocked all memories of Eleanor's little gum-shatterers.

Anyway, vacation was a careful balance of chores, fun outings, and relaxing. Matt got some stuff done around the house that'd been bothering him and I finally weeded the extensive flower beds surrounding our new abode; we took a day trip out to the game store we discovered on our sixth anniversary and bought some fun, new toys; we did lots of "sleeping in" (to the extent that parents can ever sleep in), reading, playing in the backyard, and grilling. And I finally perfected my vanilla minty cupcake recipe:

Matt and I went out on a fun date night to a delicious pizza place...

Followed by a "quick" jaunt to a bookstore, which has become a date night tradition of ours (we bought seven or eight books)...

Selfie with the Bro Fox!

And ended at a bar/restaurant that had the most amazing beer called Mackinaw Island Fudge on nitro. It. Was. Amazing. And I don't know how I don't have a picture of that beer. I did, however, manage to take a picture of my new clutch, which I am completely in love with, my first Coach purse.

It retails for $118, but I got it at a friend's garage sale for $15.

We styled the vacation to start and end half-way through the week, leaving us with two short weeks (good morale boosters), plus the vacation didn't have the typical "winding down dread" that most vacations do on Sunday night. The break, simply having Matt home for a few days and being able to get stuff done, both fun and work stuff, was so, so, so needed. Parenting young children can be really draining and this stay-cation is exactly what I needed to rebuild my spirits from the summer and power me through these last few days before school starts.

22 August 2016

Theodore Moves Out

I interrupt this vacation hiatus to bring you some exciting news.

Part of me was crazy nervous when we kicked Theodore out of our bedroom last night. When we kicked out Eleanor, she slept through the night for the first time, I got hospital-worthy mastitis, the car was totaled, and we conceived Theodore. All in the span of a week and a half.

But, at nine months today, he had reached that point where Matt and I coming to bed or rolling over woke him up. Which I've learned is the point when they need to be evicted. So we disassembled the crib, moved it across the hallway, and reassembled it in Eleanor's room. (Theodore was sleeping in the crib next to our bed - neither he nor I sleep very well when we are in the bed together.)

He slept through the entire night for the first time in a very long time. And we awoke to sounds of Eleanor entertaining him with a musical star stacker, sitting on the floor outside his crib. And I was not overly full, milk-wise. Ah, blissful (vacation) mornings.

18 August 2016

Craft Fair - Making Product

Sheep & Co is back, baby.

My sister-in-law is an official chewelry maker! She's been selling at Mom to Mom sales and, be it intentionally or unintentionally, she talked me into trying my hand again. I learned so much from having my shop and my previous craft fair sale; I'm going into this sale feeling super confident. The sale is in mid-October, so I've been working hard making product.

I've got hats, of course, and toddler-sized market bags. I'll also be selling the hair clips from my Etsy shop. I'm planning to make two baby blankets, toddler and girls shalls, and more of the wrist warmers that Eleanor loves.

I'm also going to make a few warm knit hats with animal ears and market them as halloween costume accessories. The sale I'll be doing is one of the largest in the area and they limit the sellers so that only two of each type of craft/product is allowed, so there will only be two people selling crocheted items.

I've also started brainstorming how I want my table will look, taking much inspiration from my table at the craft fair, as I think it looked really cute.

Lastly, I also plan to have a few copies of my book on the table! I'm excited to see how the sale goes because I've never had much success on Etsy. There are just too many other crocheters, and also because machine-made items will always be cheaper than handmade ones.

* * * * *

Matt has taken a few days off work for a bit of a family stay-cation, and I plan to stay off electronics and fully drink in the family time. I'll be back late next week!

16 August 2016

I care about pictures of myself

There was a photographer at the end of the 5K I ran over the weekend - my first ever 5K. Shocker, I wasn't exactly looking glamorous. I had just run 3 miles. I was running on a sprain. I didn't exactly put on any make up or do my hair before the race. I was wearing the unisex race day shirt. Theodore isn't even 9 months/39 weeks old yet, meaning I haven't been pregnant for less time than I was pregnant. There were girls there, running in their short shorts with only their sports bras as a top. They looked like they had just come from a photoshoot for Women's Health or Shape or something. But not me. I looked like this:

The look I'm going for is more internal beauty, good pride, strength, less dance crew on a fitness dvds.
So when I saw the photographer waiting at the finish line, I groaned to myself and promised to avoid her after the race at all costs. Which I successfully did. But I wasn't able to avoid the Facebook photos.

It was a terrible photo, guys. When I crossed the finish line, I felt proud yet humble, thankful, and totally elated - thanks to the endorphins. After I saw the photo, I felt humiliated, ashamed, and totally embarrassed. My heart sank. That's really what I look like? I thought I was doing so good! I haven't lost weight, but I can hold a squat for an entire song in Zumba! I can wear a 20-pound kid strapped to my back for a 5 mile hike! And that's what people see when they look at me?!

There were rolls of fat. My head was cocked at this weird angle that made my chin completely disappear into one giant column of uber-pale neck flesh. I was so disgusted with my appearance, part of me vowed right away that I would not eat until I dropped 40 pounds and I would not be seen in public again until I reached that weight.

It's a bad photo, I know! But it's blasted all over the Internet! I hid it from my timeline because even if that's what people see when they look at me, that's not a photo I want enshrined for all time.

I am so mad at the photographer for seeing the terrible "pose" and sending it to the church anyway. I am really mad at the guy in charge of posting them for seeing such shit and thinking "Sure, I'll just post all of them no matter what!" And I wish curses upon the head of whatever jerk tagged me in it. Has no one any compassion?! 9 months ago, I looked like this!

But no matter how amazing a job my lawyer of a husband did at tearing down the photo, there is still a part of me that is really ashamed. I hate feeling that way. So this morning, I took some time for mascara, eye liner, and lipstick. I put on my new shirt with my new necklace. I found good lighting, and I took some fair pictures. Pictures of me knowing I'm being photographed. Pictures of me from angles that flatter. These are the real me. Not that terrible mess a thoughtless jerk posted online.

15 August 2016

Sleeping and 5Ks

I have good news! Operation Theodore Sleep was a roaring success! Two days of regulating his naps and now he's back to sleeping at night! He wakes up two times to nurse, but falls right back asleep. He wakes up around 7am now, bright eyed and bushy tailed! The Doctor Sears Baby Sleep Book said babies his age nap for about 3 hours total, so I let him nap for 3 hours according to how the girls used to nap when they were his age. 10-11am and 2-4pm. I have to wake him up at 11am, but he wakes up by himself around 4pm and is always happy to fall asleep when I put him in his crib. It is glorious to be sleeping at night again.

I ran my first 5K on Sunday. I had been training for weeks. My goal was to be able to run the entire time (IE no walking). I was totally rocking it during my training, but somewhere over the last few weeks I sprained my foot and possibly my ankle. I finally went in to Urgent Care on Friday morning, after a night of pain and swelling, where I was encouraged to "take it easy" until "it doesn't hurt anymore," but I decided I was going to run anyway. I wanted to run my first 5K last year, but little did I know when I signed up, I was pregnant with Theodore! By the time race day arrived, I was way too nauseous to train or run, so I had to back out.

Throw back! This is still one of my favorite Eleanor pictures. That face! Little did I know this was only the beginning for my little fashion diva.
Anyway, I wasn't backing out this time. I still had the special running shoes I picked out last year. Sprain or no sprain. I babied my foot for the next two days and then ran on Sunday.

Spoiler alert: running on a sprain is a bad idea. By the end of mile 1, the pain was shooting all the way up into my glutes. I walked and limp-ran intervals for the second mile and ran the third. As much as it hurt, I was super proud of myself for pushing through the nerves and running my first race.

The girls were excited to see me cross the finish line. "Mommy work out!" They shouted. Abigail proudly held my hand all the way across the parking lot. It was adorable.

I plan to heal this obnoxious sprain and run another 5K in September. With this 5K, you actually dress up as a super hero. We happened to be going for a walk in the park two years ago mid-race when we were suddenly flanked by Superman and Batman. At that moment, I vowed that I would one day run in the "Supers 5K," and this year is my year. I'm already brainstorming my costume.

12 August 2016

When It Rains...

Well, last night was an improvement, but I've still been up since 4am with Fox. Hopefully another day of regulated napping will make tonight better. I also found out today that I sprained my foot and possibly the inside of my ankle! Just two days before my first ever 5K! Anyway, until next week, here is a video that Abigail and I just shot. Happy weekend!

11 August 2016

Random Updates from the Mom Who Never (Gets to) Sleep

Oh goodness, guys. Theodore, my hunky, chunky Fox has confused his days and his nights.

I've been up with him three to four hours a night for the last...I don't know...it seems like a really long time. It started with him getting up a couple times a night due to teething pain then oversleeping during the day to make up for waking up so much at night. I am one tired zombie mom. After reading from the Dr. Sears Baby Sleep Book (this morning at 4:20am), I have learned he should be napping about three hours per day and I am putting him on a very strict nap schedule. Today will be long and full of grouchies, but I can't handle this no-sleep thing much longer.

Do you remember the iconic midwestern county fair? Well, this year was our niece's first year doing 4H, and she raised bunnies. At the small animal auction, she had a pen of three white bunnies, and Matt was bidding to try to up the price for her and, wait for it ... we won. We won three bunnies at the fair.

She also had a second auction: one black bunny, a last-minute add-on. But there was some confusion between the auctioneer and the lineup and when my niece went up, no one bid! We figured, "What the hell, we've already bought three of them!" So Matt bid and won that bunny.

That bunny was Eleanor's favorite bunny.
The confusion was because another girl didn't show up to auction off her black bunny, and being the same color and breed, it got mixed up with my niece's bunny, and the fair gave us that other black bunny for free! So over the weekend, we accidentally bought five bunnies!

Eleanor was a total natural, and so in love with the bunnies, that I moved her toddler chair into the bunny pen we set up and she just sat with them and petted them for long stretches.

Long story short, all five bunnies are meat bunnies, intended to be eaten for their meat, and while I initially thought I'd never be handle such a thing, after a few days of having five bunnies poop all over my screen room, I realized that I can not handle three kids, one bunny-loving dog, a cat, and five bunnies. So I happily caved to Matt's insistence on turning meat bunnies into meat. Now to work up the courage to cook and eat said meat.

Sigh. Anyway, the girls have incorporated Roxy into their daily play. Their dolls ride "Horse Dog"...

...and play dress up with her.

She is exactly the kind of dog I wanted my kids to grow up with.

Okay, one last thing before I go hunting for the missing turtle puzzle piece Eleanor is clamoring for. My sister-in-law talked me into (intentionally? unintentionally?) resurrecting Sheep & Co and doing a mom to mom sale with her this October. I'm actually really excited about it! I learned so much from having an Etsy shop and from the craft fair disaster of 2013 that I really think I'll do well this time around. I promise to dedicate a post this week or next to chatting all about my way fun plans!

01 August 2016

Grocery Savings, Part 3: Extras!

On Friday night, I went grocery shopping and I ended July with nearly $1700 in savings at my local grocery store. That averages to just under $250 per month saved thus far this year for a family of five. I do it by using coupons and mPerks.
Read Part I about couponing here!
Read Part II about mPerks here!

Three Tips

Tip #1: Make a List
So you clip coupons and you use mPerks - you are going to notice some huge savings! But if you really want to get the most savings possible, you're going to need to utilize the foundation tip of frugality: make a grocery list.

Sorry it's backwards, I took this picture with my computer's built-in camera.
Every two weeks before I go grocery shopping, I make a meal plan. Depending on my mood, it can be very specific (we are going to have mac and cheese in the slow cooker on Wednesday) or flexible (I just make a list of 15 dinners I am going to make before the next payday). I base my meal plan largely off of what is in my pantry and what is on sale (so it's very seasonal in that respect).

Then I go through those recipes and add the ingredients I need to my grocery list. I add the match ups to my list. I add things that we need that can't wait til match up or I don't get match ups for. I add a small notation if something is on sale (s) or I have a coupon (c) or is on match up (s+c).

I sort my coupons in the order that I'll need them in the store and clip them together with a binder clip. This way I can easily reference them.

When I shop, I keeping a running total in the margins so I don't go over budget.

Tip #2: Get familiar with your store's clearance sections
I know my Meijer's clearance sections like the back of my hand and my regular shopping route passes by all of them. I recently found my favorite brand of bubble bath in the health and beauty clearance section! It's very expensive normally, but I had a coupon for it too (you can use coupons on clearance items!) so I ended up getting it for something like 66% off. I get a lot of good deals by hitting up the clearance sections, especially for items that don't go on sale or only go on stinky sales.

Tip #3: Take a Class
I learned to coupon when I found a class through my local community education program. It was a one session class with the Michigan Coupon Club (MCC) with the owner Carla. Carla was a really good teacher, but it appears that she has since sold the business to someone else who let it die. But if you check your community ed programs, you might find one near you. They give you lots of tips specific to the grocery stores in your area and start you out with a bunch of coupons. Coupon clubs usually charge a small fee (MCC charged $5 per month) and offer a database that tells you what the match ups are for the week. This saves you from having to scour ads yourself.

Three Costs

Cost #1: Time
There is no getting around the fact that clipping and sorting coupons and making grocery lists will take time. It takes me about 3 hours to clip, sort, make a meal plan, and make a grocery list. It took me longer when I first started, but I've streamlined things now. Sometimes I'll take care of the coupons after the kids go down for the night while watching a movie to make time go by a little faster. It's worth $250 a month for me to take that extra time.

Cost #2: Certain Conveniences
It's really hard to focus on ounces of lotion and flavors of Cheerios when you have fussy kids in the cart. I rarely shop with the kids and I hate spending my weekends at the grocery store, so I often shop after the kids go to bed for the night. It means I'm out after dark and I'm putting groceries away at 10:30pm. Sometimes I'll go out after dinner and Matt will have to pull bedtime duty, it just depends on Theodore. I took him with me when he was young enough to sleep through it, but he's older now and gets cantankerous when I'm ringing and bagging groceries, so I plan the shopping around his grouchies and nursing schedule.

Sometimes I'm all set to grocery shop on Tuesday evening, but then I find out that Meijer is having its 5% & 10% off sale on Friday and Saturday, so I reschedule and spend my Friday night at Meijer. It kind of stinks, but again, I'll take $250 per month to deal with losing a Friday here and there.

Cost #3: Public Perception
Couponers, just like moms of multiple children, garner looks, sighs, and comments. Usually I shop on Thursday nights and Meijer is practically empty, so I don't hear much of it. But sometimes I do. I prefer the self checkout and every single time I shop, I have at least one coupon that refuses to scan and I have to wait for a clerk to come assist me. If there is an impatient person behind me, I get a lot of sighs. One time Meijer was oddly crowded for a Friday night and the lady behind me told the clerk smuggly, "You won't have to deal with me, I forgot my coupons at home." She continued with pride, "In fact, I don't even think anything I bought has a coupon!" And because I buy two papers, sometimes the gas station clerk will ask rudely, "Are you one of those crazy couponers?" But I've never had a Meijer grocery store clerk say something rude or act impatient with my rogue coupons. In fact, they usually thank me for being patient!

Before I buy the paper, I always check to make sure it has coupons in it. They aren't offered every week and back when couponing was in it's hey day, sometimes people would steal the inserts out of newspapers to get more coupons. It was hard for me to stand there digging through the paper - I felt everyone judging me for being one of those crazy couponers.

Anyway, refusing to coupon because I'm scared of the way people I don't even know will think about me is foolish, so I push through the awkwardness and it honestly doesn't bother me anymore. I'm very proud of how much money I save my family every week! Now I think people who are proud of the fact that they don't coupon are crazy!

Three Rewards

Reward #1: Money
Without a doubt, the number one thing I hear from people when I tell them I coupon is: "I could never do that because we don't eat processed foods." And while it's true that you're not going to see coupons for organic apples and brown eggs, I regularly get coupons for all-natural juices and juice boxes, frozen veggies (I usually get mine, even the steam-in-the-microwavable-bag kind, for $.60-$1 a bag), tomatoes, avocados, hummus, canned fruit, and name brand dairy products. Also, all lunch meat, bacon, and sausage coupons are good on any nitrite/nitrate free options that brand has available. And even if none of those food options appeal to you, unless you make all your own shampoo, hair spray, deodorant, and laundry detergent, and never wear make up, you will save money. The brands I get on match up have fragrance and dye free options.

Plus with mPerks, you can still buy all the organic or regular produce you want and get rewards. Right now I'm working on a reward to "Spend $30 in produce and get $3 off your next purchase." Sometimes they offer me rewards for meat and dairy too. If you get $3 off all three and you pay attention to your rewards, that's $9 off.

Reward #2: We eat better
I spend my savings back at Meijer, so that we can eat better quality food and keep feeding our growing family without having to add more money to the budget. I save so much freakin' money on household items that I've constantly got enough cash left by the time I get to the food section of the store to get a few splurges. My #1 splurge is always the meat: grass fed beef and free range chicken. Since I meal plan, I know exactly how much meat I need.

Secondly, we eat better because we can afford stuff I never used to buy. Like the Nature Valley granola bars. I can get four to six boxes when they are on a good match up and ration them out until they go on sale again. I get nuts, granola, and Greek yogurt - as many as I have coupons for - because I can actually afford it when it's on match up.

Lastly, I always have enough cash to stock up. When canned beans are $.60 a can (40% off!) I can afford to fill up my pantry without having to break the budget that month. This is especially important with cereal, which can be super sketchy with its good sales.

Reward #3: We can donate more
When you get free pens, $.90 shampoo, and $1 disposable razors, or have 9 bottles of bbq sauce and 12 cans of beans, it's so much easier to contribute to food drives or back to school drives at church. We used to buy all of our contributions with our tithe money, but now our budget doesn't even know when we make donations.

Grocery Savings, Part 2: mPerks!

On Friday night, I went grocery shopping and I ended July with nearly $1700 in savings at my local grocery store. That averages to just under $250 per month saved thus far this year for a family of five. I do it by using coupons and mPerks.

Read Part I about couponing here!
Read Part III about extra tips here!

This time last year, my four foot long receipt totaled - no joke - $199.99

2. mPerks

MPerks is Meijer's digital coupon and rewards program. You create an account at www.mperks.com, then when you get to the cash register, you log in on the credit card swipe pad. Your coupons will be added automatically and you'll be asked if you would like to use your rewards.

1. mPerks Digital Coupons
MPerks coupons usually cannot be combined with paper coupons and I find that they are usually offering the same amount of money off, so I don't invest much time here. I have it set to autoclip suggested coupons and that's satisfactory for me. As you can see below, mPerks has autoclipped me 23 coupons. When I check out, they'll just automatically ring up and maybe I'll get an additional dollar saved that I didn't expect.

The real benefits are the special offers. During my Friday night trip, they had a special coupon that I had to clip myself for an additional 20% off all Carter's clothes. After I make my grocery list, I spend about 5-10 minutes on mPerks.com looking through coupons and checking rewards. Periodically Meijer will offer 5% off all groceries and/or 10% off general merchandise via an mPerks coupon. This is like a triple match up! It happened to me on Friday night, in fact. Shampoo, conditioner, and style products were on sale for 2/$5. I had a coupon to save $3 on two bottles, meaning I got 2/$2. Then I got an additional 10% off, so I got two bottles for $1.80, or $.90 each!

2. mPerks Rewards
MPerks rewards are where the big savings are. If you spend a certain amount of money in a certain category, you will earn a reward. (They are highly personalized.) For example, I just earned a reward of $12 for spending $550 in total purchases at Meijer. Next time I shop at Meijer, I'll log in to mPerks at the checkout and it will ask me, "Would you like to use your $12 off coupon today?" I have categories for dairy, baby items, and produce, among others.

I actually have $21 in rewards saved up right now (watch out, though, they do expire). I usually apply mine to my next grocery shopping trip, so my budget next month will be $21 higher, but I know some people who save them up and use their rewards on special items, like money off a Kindle Fire.

3. Blinkies
When you use mPerks, the printed coupons you get with your receipt will be more tailored to your shopping preferences. Below are a few examples of some I have: 25% off apparel (which can be used on sale items), $.75 off two avocados (which often go on sale for $1 each), and $1.50 off one bottle of Olay body wash. Blinkies can be combined with mPerks and newspaper coupons.

Using a triple match up: sale + coupon + blinkie ($3 off my $15 purchase of school supplies), I was able to score a ton of school supplies for an average of $.50 each.

A few packages of Bic pens for free helped lower my average!

Using a sale plus an mPerks digital coupon, I was able to score some really awesome deals on Carter's new fall line of clothes.

Now, Carter's is very easy to get on sale and you should never pay more than 40% off for Carter's clothes. So I should never pay more than $13.20 for that orange three-piece set on the left. I paid $7.04. The combo in the middle? I'd be a sucker if I paid more than $19.20. I got it for $10.24. The long-sleeved onesie on the right actually goes for $12 full price. There are people in this world who can't afford to eat today - never pay $12 for a onesie. Anyway, I shouldn't pay more than $7.20 (which is still more than I'd ever willingly pay). I got it for $3.84. The hat was on double clearance, plus I had the mPerks coupon, so I paid $1.60 for it in the end.

Those clothing prices are a higher than if I'd hit up a used clothing store, but I think they are really great for brand new items. Not counting the hat, I got 7 pieces of new clothing for $3 each.

Pro Tips!

-You have to stay on top of your rewards. Once you earn them, you have to clip them yourself. You then have to click to start earning your next reward. It doesn't take long, you just can't forget! I always check mine after I make my grocery list.

-I suspect I get more out of my mPerks than most people because I buy e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g at Meijer. I literally live 1.8 miles from Meijer and about 20-30 minutes from Sam's Club, Costco, Kroger, Target, or Aldi. No matter how good the Target diaper sale, it's never worth it to take three kids and go that far out of my way. I do get some things from Sam's, but I only go once a month and I either get a babysitter for the girls or wait until Abigail's in school.

Grocery Savings, Part I: Coupons!

On Friday night, I went grocery shopping and I ended July with nearly $1700 in savings at my local grocery store. That averages to just under $250 per month saved thus far this year for a family of five.

I have two secrets: coupons and mPerks.

Read Part II about mPerks here!
Read Part III about extra tips here!

1. Coupons

The goal with coupons is to save them up until the product goes on sale. Sale + Coupon = Match Up.

Each Sunday I buy two Detroit Free Press newspapers, clip the coupons, and organize them in a binder with baseball card holders.

Since I have two of each flyer, I tear the pages out so they are single sheets, then I match up the sheets and cut out two coupons at one time. If you have appropriately aged kids, you could recruit them to help you cut and sort coupons. I know a woman who paid her kid cents per coupon for her help.

As I clip, I separate them into two piles: food and non food. Once everything is clipped, I sort the food pile by category: meats, dairy, cereal, boxed and canned items, etc. As I go through each section putting coupons away, I also check for expired coupons. I repeat with non food.

Next I scour the weekly ad and pull out the necessary coupons. With each passing week, you'll get better and better at knowing the sales rotations of stores and which sales are worth springing for.

Via match ups, I don't pay more than $1.25 for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair styling products, toothpaste, or my deodorant. On that above receipt, I got eight bottles of hair stuff for $.90 each. My best steal yet were two econo-sized Tresemmes for free. I can regularly get Aussie, Herbal Essences, and Suave's larger and premium brands at these prices. I can occasionally get Tresemme, Pantene, and Garnier Fructis at those prices. The more costly brands (John Frieda, Mitchum) also issue coupons, but their match ups are more expensive. (Obviously, since they start with a higher price tag.)

I have something like 16 pairs of shampoo and conditioner, half a dozen giant body washes, and two solid rows of hair product.
I always get frozen veggies, make up, hair dye, sunscreen, and bug spray at least 50% off. I usually pay $1-2 per jug of laundry detergent. About once every six to eight weeks, Arm & Hammer will be BOGO free and I'll have two coupons, so I'll buy two at $2.99 per jug, use my two coupons for $1 off each jug, plus get two free. $2.99/jug x 2 jugs - $2 in coupons = $3.98 for four jugs. That's $.99 per jug for all varieties, including fragrance and dye free.

There are lots of items I don't save 50% on, I just save something and something is better than nothing.

For example, Matt and I switched to Schick razors because that brand always had the best match ups. They will often go on sale for 15% off. I currently have a coupon for $3 off Schick razors or refills. So if my refills are normally $15, they'll be on sale for $2.25 off and I'll get an additional $3 off, so I'll pay $9.75 for $15 razor blades refills. It's a little over 33% off, but that's $5 more dollars in my pocket.

Another great example is pet supplies. A $13 bag of Purina cat food will often be on sale for $2 off. I currently have a coupon for $1.50 off. That's $3.50 off cat food. My cat liter is $12 and will often go on sale for $10. I usually have a $2 off coupon, saving me $4. If both the food and the liter are on sale on the same week, I will save $5 on the food and $4 on the liter, a total of $9.

If I'm looking to shrink my budget, I can pocket the $9 savings. If I'm growing my family but don't want to grow my budget, I could get another $10 cat liter, but only pay $1 more than I usually do.

Then there's the seasonal and specialty items!

Every summer, salad dressings and bbq sauce go on sale and issue tons of coupons. So far this year, I've built up a stash of 9 bottles of Sweet Baby Ray's and 6 bottles of dressing (various brands) for $.30-$.50 per bottle. I buy just a few bottles per week because I don't want to contribute to the negative image that couponers have. We've already used a couple bottles so far having summer bbqs.

Coupons also let me get super special treats that I would never normally buy. Like these premixed drinks that I absolutely love, usually I get them for $1.50-$2 each.

Or these no artificial ingredients juices I just got for $1 each.

Pro Tips!

-Not all coupons are created equal. The more major the paper, the better the coupons in my area. The Freep and Ann Arbor News have better coupons than the LSJ, Cit Pat, or Press & Argus.

-Not all match ups are created equal. Nature Valley granola bars usually go on sale for 2/$5. Sometimes they are $2/6 or $2/4. The goal - obviously - is to wait until the sale is $2/4, then spring in with my $.75 off two coupon and get those bad boys for $1.62 per box. Sometimes I'll get them on the 2/$5 sale if we're desperate. The longer you coupon, the better you'll get at knowing the best sales and how often they're offered.

-Sometimes store brand items are cheaper than the best match up. I find that to be the case with trash bags and sandwich bags. On one hand, it does mean that if you really want the name brand (I do with trash bags), you can save a few bucks on them. When I first started, I clipped every single coupon. After a few months, I started to figure out which brands are never worth it and I stopped clipping those coupons.

-Sometimes what you want will never go on match up. For me, that's peanut butter. Jif Natural's usual sale is $.30 off a jar and I almost never see Jif coupons.

-I find that health and beauty is "the tough section" of the store because I can't fully prepare for it. For example: the flyer might say that L'oreal lotion is on sale. The fine print simply states the certain types and sizes are sale. Will it be the original formula? Only the deep conditioning sensitive skin one? Are the scented ones included? My coupon might state that it only applies to the small size bottles of all types excluding original formula. I don't always know if the health and beauty sale + coupon combo will work until I get there, so it takes me a bit longer in this section.