Welcome FUSION readers!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

1st Quarter Savings & Updates

Hello frugal friends,

I'm O so very happy to be back on the couponing wagon. Today, I finally had a chance to sit down and tally up all of my receipts from the last 6 weeks when I was um, NOT on the wagon. I was really dreading adding up the numbers. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought but it's not exactly where I would like it to be either. My current stats look like this.

Weeks: 13
Total Spent: $756
Total Saved: $1270
Percentage: 63%
Weekly Average: $58.18

For starters, my percentage is not as high as I am accustomed to but it's still well over the 50% mark. My goal is $50 a week and I'm clearly over that. Right now, I'm at a deficit of about $100 altogether, which shouldn't be too hard to recoup considering that I've still got 39 weeks to go before the year ends. :)

Here's what I will be working towards for the 2nd quarter of the year.
  • My stockpile did take a big hit when I was skipping trips to the store. I need to focus on getting my overstock built back up. Specifically, we need meat and paper products.
  • I finally kicked Kroger to the curb and it feels good but I'm still adjusting. Kroger is the closest store to me at home and hubby at work so its kinda tough if we happen to need something ASAP. Publix is about a 25-30 minute drive for me but it's totally worth it for the customer service alone and the BOGO deals.
  • I'm going to buckle down with meal planning. This will help us to avoid last-minute needs, which almost always result in paying full price.
  • I am going to make a weekly trip to Publix, preferably on Wednesdays so I can take advantage of the Penny Item. I'm hoping to get into a really good groove that will carry me through the rest of the year.
  • Finally, I'm going to work hard to stick to my budget each week (or even under) to get my weekly totals down into the $55 range by mid year.
How have you done so far this year? What are your goals for the 2nd quarter?



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SUPER Easy Way to Peel Potatoes

A friend of mine recently emailed me this video, which shows a super easy technique to peel a potato without having to use one of those pesky potato peelers. I was skeptical at first even after watching the video. Today, I'm making a recipe which required me to peel and boil 8 potatoes. I figured if I were going to have to boil them anyway, I might as well try this new technique.

I'm pleased to report that it worked great! It was just as easy as it shows and because they potatoes were cooled first, I didn't get a steam burn on my hands. Yay!!!

Check it out for yourself. I'll admit that I think the video is a little cheesy but the technique she demonstrates is awesome!



Friday, March 25, 2011

Frugal 101: Sales Cycles

This is the next installment in the Frugal 101 series. We all know that food goes on sale but did you know that it's possible to predict when an item will be on sale? Almost all items will have a sales rotation, which averages anywhere from 8-10 weeks. This is the time to stock up on those items. Other items like produce see their lowest prices during their peak harvest times throughout the year. Knowing what fruits & veggies will be on sale can help you with meal planning. Check out the resources below, which will help you in predicting seasonal sales cycles.



Monday, March 7, 2011

Have a Great Vacation on the Cheap

Are you taking a family vacation this summer? Are you looking for ways to save? Here are my top 10 tips for finding deals and saving on a great family vacation.

  1. Airfare - Personally, if Southwest doesn't fly there we just don't go. They are my favorite airline by far. DING! is an application that you download which will notify you of deep discounts on Southwest airfare.
  2. Frequent Flyer Card - No matter what airline you fly, you should definitely make sure you are registered for their frequent flyer program. Eventually all those flights can add up for a FREE one. This is also a great way to earn other rewards (drink tickets, discounts, ect.) depending on the carrier.
  3. Hotels - My favorite site for getting the best deal on accommodations is Hotels.com. They also have a reward program that earns you a FREE night once you stay 5 nights anywhere.
  4. Entertainment - A great way to save on activities and entertainment is by watching the Groupon deals for the city you plan on traveling to. You can save at least 50% or more by purchasing these in advance.
  5. Food - For restaurant deals you can check Restaurant.com and save 50%-90% on food gift certificates.
  6. Use your current memberships - If you have a zoo or discovery center membership, find out if they are part of a national program. Often times, you will receive FREE admission to the same establishment in another city or at least a discount.
  7. Get paid to vacation - When booking any sort of flights, car rentals, or accommodations I always shop through Ebates first. For example, when booking at Hotels.com you can also earn 4% back!
  8. Choose your dates - The best rates are generally during the off season and during the week. If possible, plan your vacation during these times.
  9. Look for blogs - Search for specific blogs or websites that specialize in your travel destination. When I was planning our Disney vacation one of my favorite sources of valuable information was Mouse Savers.
  10. Check with friends - If you know of someone who has been to your destination before ask if you can pick their brain for details. They may be able to offer valuable advice on things to avoid, which may not be worth the cost. They also may be able to suggest activities that were totally worth it!

Do you have any tips for finding vacation deals? Share them in the comments below or let me know where you will be vacationing this summer.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.



Thursday, March 3, 2011

RECIPE: Southwest Egg Rolls

NOTE: Use the "Print Friendly" button at the bottom of this post. It will allow you to print just the recipe and save your ink.

This is probably one of my favorites and I'm making it tonight. The original recipe came from Taste of Home Magazine. The dipping sauce is nothing short of awesome and I usually serve this with a side of rice. I've been making this recipe for 2 years but we just recently discovered that my hubby is the best egg roll wrapper ever! Mine always look horrible (still taste delicious) but his get rolled up perfectly. Therefore, he is now the "official" egg roll wrapper at our house.

You've heard me talk before about meal planning. Here's how I saved $ on the ingredients for this recipe. I picked up canned corn and beans last week at Publix with the Italian Days Sale. I also picked up some Sargento shredded cheese on the cheap with my prints from Coupons.com. Chicken & avocados were on sale at Kroger. A lime & cilantro is pretty cheap and I have never been able to find the egg roll wrappers on sale so I picked those up yesterday. All the remaining ingredients came from items already on hand in my pantry or fridge. :)


Egg rolls:
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken
  • 1-1/2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • 2/3 cup whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2/3 cup black beans, drained
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 t. grated lime peel
  • 1 pkg. egg roll wrappers
  • vegetable oil

Dip Ingredients:
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 cup ranch salad dressing
  • 1 T. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 T. lime juice

Cook chicken and then shred or chunk into small pieces. In a large bowl, combine chicken, cheese, corn, beans, onions, cumin, pepper, 1/4 cup cilantro and lime peel. Place 1/4 cup of this mixture into the center of a wrapper and roll up. Use pastry brush dipped in water to seal. Prepare all egg rolls. Then, heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees. Fry 2-3 egg rolls at a time for 2 minutes on each side. When golden brown, remove and allow to drain on a paper towel. To prepare dip, peel and mash the avocado. Mix with ranch, 1 Tablespoon of cilantro and lime juice. Delicious!



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Back on the Wagon

Hello friends.

Sorry that I've been MIA for a few weeks. I had a HUGE project at work that we needed to get finished and it was taking up all of my time. We wrapped up the project last week and things are starting to settle back down around here.

During the past few weeks I will totally admit that I fell off the coupon wagon. There was hardly time for laundry, much less coupons. I still dabbled in coupons here and there but I wasn't being as consistent as I usually am. My trips to the grocery store were haphazard and poorly planned. One Saturday I literally stood in Publix and wanted to cry. I felt like a newbie all over again. My list (at least I had a list) was a mess. I didn't have all the coupons I needed because I forgot to print them or pull them and I was wondering around aimlessly in the aisles trying to get the things we needed.

However, as awful as that sounds, I did do somethings right during my little hiatus.
  1. I used my stockpile. I have lots of staples in my pantry, garage and extra freezer. I used that for about a solid 2 weeks before I ever even noticed that I need to make a grocery run.
  2. I planned our meals. Granted, there were a few nights where we grabbed pizza because I was too exhausted to think about cooking or cleaning up the kitchen. For the most part, I still sat down each week and planned out our meals mostly using my stockpile mentioned above.
  3. I shopped the deals. Even without coupons I was still saving 40%-50% simply by shopping the sales and BOGO items. Sometimes I would just give hubby a list of items to grab on his way home. Usually these items were fruits/veggies/meats that were on sale. These items typically don't have coupons so it made it easy for him and saved me a trip so I could keep on working.
Now that things have settled down I'm ready to buckle down and get back at it. I just want you to know that it's okay if you feel discouraged sometimes. It's okay if you occasionally fall off the wagon. Coupons save a lot of money but it also takes time. The trick is just remembering the basics and taking the first step to get back on track.

If you need a refresher course, please check out my Frugal 101 page with lots of tips and tricks. Also, be sure to "LIKE" Coupon Queen Diaries on Facebook. Even when I'm MIA from the blog, you can always find me (and my readers) posting tidbits and deals over there!