Publix and Kroger shopping and transferring prescriptions to get FREE money!

My goal for the next month is to spend only $25 out-of-pocket per week in groceries/household/etc. Earlier this week, I hit up CVS and Walgreens and spent a total of $1 out of pocket.

I made a quick trip to Kroger yesterday, hoping to pick up a prescription (but it wasn’t ready), and got milk, 2 dozen eggs (for the zucchini breads!), a bag of fresh peaches, and grape jelly, spending a total of $12 and using no coupons!

When I went back to Kroger to pick up the prescription today, using a coupon for $25 in groceries when you transfer any prescription, I realized that I didn’t have my Kroger card. My Kroger card doesn’t have a phone number attached to it (or at least I can’t figure out what number it IS!), so when I forget my card, I enter my grandparents’ phone number to use their card. I don’t usually spend enough at Kroger to get much gas benefits anyway, and I don’t forget my card too often, so using their card once in a while isn’t a big deal. However, this coupon automatically credits your Kroger card with the $25 instead of giving you a physical gift card, which I DID NOT know. So… I needed to use that $25 immediately before anyone else used that Kroger card!!!

After formulating a last-minute plan, I stocked up on a few essentials that don’t have coupons. They’re the kind of items that we consume a lot of, and they’re the cheapest I’ve found, even without coupons!

I got two 12-packs of Kroger-brand cola (for my husband’s office), two big containers of non-dairy creamer, a huge bag of carrots for the guinea pig, a bag of marked-down bread for french toast, some baking powder, a bag of tater tots and 5 lbs of hamburger meat for my son’s birthday party this weekend. I spent a total of $7 out-of-pocket after the $25 credit for the transferred prescription. I was hoping to have a gift card to use later in the month, but I’m going with the flow!

I did the same prescription transfer at Publix, using the same Kroger coupon. Publix’ new coupon policy states that their pharmacy accepts competitor’s prescription coupons (which I double-checked with the store manager) and DID get a gift card this time!!! It pays to take the extra time to make some money with these prescription transfer coupons!!!

I used it to get:
4 bottles of V8 Splash juice
1 Publix greenwise double roll toilet paper (penny item!!!!)
1 bunch of bananas
1 12-pack of Miller Lite (my husband’s been wanting some!)

The cost before sales/coupons (I only had a few) was $28 and the cost after was $15, so I saved 40%, but since I paid for it with a FREE giftcard, I saved 100%!

I still have $10 left on the giftcard, so I’ll use some of it with my $25 next week for a big deal I’m putting together on a couple of stock-up items.

So…

My out-of-pocket total for the week is up to $8!

Transferring prescriptions to ‘make’ money can be a great tool! They do have restrictions, so read the coupons carefully. Transferring prescriptions has two possible downsides: One is that, unless you’re transferring all your prescriptions at a time, your prescriptions aren’t all at the same pharmacy to check for possible drug interactions. This is very important, because even if you always go to the same doctor, they can miss a possible drug interaction when they prescribe a new medication. I only do this because my husand’s been on the same medications, all of which were at the same pharmacy, for a few months now, so I know that he’s not having any problems.

The second downfall to transferring prescriptions is that it can be a hassle. It takes some time to transfer them and usually some time at the counter to get the coupons all figured out. It also apparently annoys some of the pharmacy employees. I’ve had times when the cashiers were rude and obviously annoyed at me for doing it. I’ve even had a manager make some rude comments to me once. Most of them don’t like doing the extra work that it takes to transfer a prescription, and I’ve heard one pharmacy tech say that they look down on people who do this. The way I look at it is this:

With my husband’s monthly prescriptions, the pharmacies are getting about $1200 worth of business from me each month. We pay nowhere near that (thank you Jesus for giving us good health insurance), but we pay for the insurance, the co-insurance, and the co-pays, as well as our insurance paying the remainder. The pharmacy is making a LOT of money off of my family. Drugs are a HUGE business and they want my business, so much so that corporate is willing to put out these coupons and/or accept competitor’s coupons to get that business. Even if they only get that business for a few months out of the year, they’re making thousands, and giving me a fraction of that in gift cards. They know that the money they’re making is worth the coupon.

So, if I can spend a little extra time every couple of months to save a little extra, it’s worth it to me! I can handle the cashier’s annoyances, smile, thank them, and continue on with my day, happy to have made a little money for my effort.

Ultra-couponing drop-out

Kelly is my good friend, and a wonderful writer, mother, and woman! She blogs about her family life and her journey to holiness through the minefields of toys over here. Visit her blog. You won’t regret it!

Kelly and I have been missing each other a lot in the past few months as she keeps asking me to teach her my ‘secrets’, but the thing is, I have no secrets. I wish I did! She wrote this wonderfully funny and honest account of her couponing trials and her official drop-out status, as well as a very humbling opinion of yours truely.

I adore her frankness, and, I have to admit, I’ve been there! In fact, I could probably fill a book with all of my couponing flubs and if I were completely honest, I still have those occasions. I think the goal may not be perfection, but to have these flubs with less and less frequency!

Thank you Kelly for your honesty and your sweet words! And don’t give up! We’ve all been there and continue to be there!

Finding Deals at the Dollar Tree

My mom LOVES dollar stores and buys most of our Christmas stocking items at them. I think she’d buy everything at a dollar store if she could! I remember going with her as a teenager and really paying attention to the prices and the items, and I clearly remember when I realized for the first time that not everything in there was a bargain. In fact, some of the things were MORE expensive at the dollar store than at other stores! What a moment that was! I thought EVERYTHING was cheaper at the dollar store. I then developed the opposite understanding: that NOTHING was cheaper at the dollar store and generally tried to stay away from them.

Since then, I’ve gone back and forth in my opinions of dollar stores, but I have determined, after careful research, that somethings are ALWAYS cheaper at dollar stores, and some are ALWAYS more expensive. Here are some of the items that I’ve discovered as being a ‘deal’ at the dollar store near me:

Sunglasses (I’m pretty sure they’re not as good quality UV-wise as the more expensive kinds, but for someone who loses them as easily as I do and then refuses to pay $10+ for another pair for upwards of 2 years, they’re better than nothing and certainly a great deal!)

Super glue : At $1 for three tubes, you can’t beat it!

Plastic containers : I keep a lot of my kids’ clothes items in little plastic bins on a bookshelf and these are the cheapest that I have EVER found them, and they’re the perfect size!

Kids’ craft items : Have you ever been to Hobby Lobby?! They have a GIGANTIC selection and some descent deals, but if you can find anything at the dollar stores, it’s almost assuredly cheaper there.

Party supplies : My dollar store has a huge selection of party supplies, including paper products, decorations, invitations, etc. Target and the likes may have some very cute stuff, but these are just as cute and priced MUCH less. I’ve especially loved finding the plastic ware for parties because you can’t beat the price!

Balloons : If you are needing mylar balloons, the dollar store is the place to get them! They’ve got every kind of occasion balloon you can think of, all very cute, and even some character balloons! I got some Spiderman balloons for my 3 year old’s last birthday and he LOVED them!

Water accessories : Other than certified floatation devices, they have the best-priced pool stuff, from noodles to goggles, also in characters if you want them (again with the Spiderman stuff! We love it!).

In the spirit of thriftiness, here are a few things that are NOT a deal at the dollar store, especially for couponers:

food : it’s overpriced and under-portioned compared to what’s at the grocery stores. There are very few items that I would actually say is a good deal, with large bags of animal crackers possibly being the only one!

pregnancy and ovulation tests : I’ve recently switched my mind about this, because dollar store pregnancy tests were the cheapest I’d ever seen, and I was just amazed at the savings compared to the ones in the store (and trust me when I say that they’re the EXACT same thing!), but I recently bought a set of 25 pregnancy tests for about $5 on Amazon, same price as the ovulation tests. Now, I don’t know if I’ll use 25 pregnancy tests in the next couple of years, but you can be sure that I’ll definitely use more than 5 and be able to let any friends I have use them too, so I’ll be saving potentially a lot more than what it would cost at the dollar store. (Note: I’m not crazy fertility woman, I swear! I choose to not drink AT ALL when I’m pregnant because I’d rather not take ANY chances, so I like to be absolutely sure that I’m not pregnant before I have a drink at a party or a glass of wine at night. Doing this means that I can go through some tests, but the peace of mind is more than worth it!)

Toothpaste, toothbrushes, most toiletries : When you play the drugstore game, you’ll find that you’ll rarely if ever have to pay anything for most of these items, so paying $1 for them is not a deal. In fact, I just got 9 tubes of Crest toothpaste at Kroger for free to prove this to be true. The only exception is kid’s bubble bath or kid’s shampoo/conditioner if you need either of those. They’re expensive at most stores and I don’t think I’ve ever seen coupons for either of them, so those can be good deals if it’s something that you use.

Have you found either GOOD deals or BAD deals at dollar stores?

The importance of planning… and letting go and moving forward!

This week’s Publix trip was going to be AMAZING! I was going to score some free plus overage chicken and some bags of Sunchips for $.50 each! The chicken alone would make me almost $5 to go towards other items. I was so pumped, but a lot has been going on around here in the past few days, and I was a little lax in getting all my stuff together.

I finally sat down today, ready to get everything together and head out tonight, the last night before the sale changes. I started gathering my coupons and noticed that the rebate on the chicken needed to have a purchase date of 04/09 or earlier, and the awesome coupons ($3/2) I had gotten with samples a week or so ago had expired on the 10th! To say that I’m frustrated is an understatement.

It’s completely my fault because I didn’t pay attention to the dates or read the fine print on the rebate (the coupons that came WITH the rebate don’t expire until the 16th, but the rebate ends much earlier!). I dropped the ball. I should have planned the trip with the coupons much earlier so that I would have it all in place to see the dates and go a few days earlier, but I didn’t. Life happened.

And the thing is, it’s not the end of the world. Life will go on without eight bags of Sunchips, even if they only would have cost $.50 per bag, and the chicken is still a great deal at $.75 per bag (originally $5.49) even without making money. I will still save a good amount of money this week and my family will still be eating well. I can’t dwell on my mistake.

We all experience little set-backs (sometimes big ones too), but the important thing is to keep moving forward. My friend Jennifer came over late last night, devastated that the carrot cake she was trying SO HARD to make perfectly broke apart. She was making it for our very pregnant friend and she wanted it to be perfect so badly that she was just devastated. I told her what I have to tell myself ALL THE TIME: Whine about it for one minute, and then move forward.

She borrowed my trifle dish and we came up with a plan to turn the cake into a carrot cake trifle, which turned out nicely, even though it wasn’t what she originally wanted it to be. She took a less-than-ideal situation, and did the best she could with it, which turned out to be pretty good!

We all make mistakes, drop the ball, or do things we shouldn’t have, but we can’t change the past. We can whine about it for a minute, and sometimes we SHOULD, but then we have to stop(!!!) and figure out how best to move forward with the situation we’re in and what we have to work with.

I’m not throwing in the towel. I’m still going to Publix today, and I’m going to do my best with the deals that I have available to me today. It’ll still be a good trip and I’m satisfied with that. I’m moving forward and I promise that I am done whining about my lost money-making chicken, or at least I will be done as soon as I post this!

The hidden costs of ‘extreme couponing’

(photo courtesy of TLC)

The blogging world is buzzing about TLC’s show ‘Extreme Couponing’ which showed last night. I haven’t seen the show because we don’t have cable, but I have seen some clips on the internet. I have had some people ask me what I think about it, and I admit that I am somewhat intrigued because I wonder how I could do a better job at couponing myself. However, I don’t like the general idea of the show, and I do have a few points that I want to make.

First of all, the show is called ‘Extreme Couponing’ for a reason: the people and the trips they’re featuring are the extreme. This kind of couponing doesn’t work for 99.9% of people, and, in fact, costs a lot more than the show is letting on in time and in money.

Time: I want to highlight the time they spend doing all of this. This is something that they’ve been mostly upfront about, but it’s worth calculating. Couponing is like a full-time job for most of them, citing 30, 40, or even 70 hours a week spent on scoping out deals, finding coupons, and shopping. Time is worth something for everyone from someone with a full-time job to a stay-at-home mom! I am frequently finding ways of making money that I COULD do, but not all of them are worth the time involved.

A good way to calculate this is to work it out like an hourly rate. For example, if I’m spending 2-3 extra hours each week on couponing (making lists, gathering coupons, checking websites for deals, etc) outside of the time you would normally spend grocery shopping, and I save even just $100, that’s as much as $50 an hour that I’m ‘making’, which is totally worth it! (I want to note that when you’re starting out, it takes much more time than it will once you get the hang of it. Make sure you give it at LEAST 3-6 months before you really start calculating your time, because it’s BEST to start slow and not get overwhelmed!)

If I’m spending 70 hours a week doing all of this to save $500, that’s about $7 an hour, which is less than minimum wage. That’s not worth it to me. In reality, I’m ‘making’ more money with the first scenario. Time really is money, and you have to find a balance.

Coupon Cost: The second cost I want to highlight is the amount of money that the people featured spend acquiring the coupons. Aside from dumpster diving, coupons cost money (via papers or clipping services) and the people on this show have hundreds of them in hand. You HAVE to take into account the cost of the coupons (see the comment section of this link for a good break-down of weighing cost of coupons!). You don’t see those costs when you’re looking at the totals at the check-out. That $2.31 check-out total probably cost at least $100 in coupons. I’m not saying it’s not worth the cost of the coupons, because it usually is if you are really buying your items at their lowest price, and you can use everything you bought before it expires, but you have to factor the cost of the coupons in to your totals and of course your budget!

Storage Cost: The third hidden cost I want to point out is pretty obvious from the clips I’ve seen, but it’s the cost of the additional storage space. My house is 1000 square feet, and with three little boys, we don’t have an extra closet, bedroom or floor to devote to a stockpile (nor do we want to). If we wanted to own a home large enough to hold that amount of stuff, for no reason other than to have the additional storage, we’d probably need to add $200-$300 to our mortgage each month. Plus, you have the cost of the storage racks and heating and cooling the additional space. When you start factoring all of that in, it starts to look much different.

Other than the hidden costs, I don’t like this show because I feel that it can discourage people from couponing, especially beginners or those who have never tried it before. I saw this in a facebook conversation just a little while ago, which is what prompted this post. Couponing doesn’t have to take up all your time! In fact, it shouldn’t!

Couponing is a wonderful skill, and an amazing way to be better stewards of our money and provide for our families, but even good things can be bad without moderation. EVERYTHING in moderation.

I’m reminded of the parable about the man with so much grain that he couldn’t store it all. Instead of giving it away, he built a bigger container so that he could keep it all. He didn’t need all that grain, but he loved the idea of having it all to look at. God called him a fool and said that ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Now that’s a huge cost!

To Sam’s or not to Sam’s?

I had a Sam’s Club membership once. I also spent a LOT of money on groceries once upon a time. I’ve heard many people say that they love Sam’s Club, and the prices are great, but I know that they don’t always shop the loss leaders like I do or even use coupons.

For example: diapers. Sam’s Club has a box of 204 count Huggies size 3 diapers for $38.98, or $.18 per diaper.

Amazon: you can get a box of 156 ct Huggies size 3 diapers for $31.91 or $.20 per diaper, BUT you can click ‘subscribe and save’ to get an additional 15% off AND you can join Amazon Mom (for free!) and get another 15% off to make it $22.34 or $.14 per diaper. If you use a 20% off diapers coupon and/or a $10 off any baby purchase coupon (which have been in ALL the recent baby/parent magazines lately, and are easy to get at the ped’s office), you can get it as low as $5.96 or $.04 per diaper. Now, it takes a little bit of work to get the last two coupons, but no work at all to get the subscribe and save and Amazon Mom discounts, which, alone, make Amazon cheaper for diapers.

Drug Stores: The drug stores have rotations of diaper deals, and you can easily stock up for much less than retail value. Last week, Walgreens had Huggies size 3, 32 ct packs on sale for $7.99. They also had a $2/1 coupon in the infant care coupon booklet, and a $3/1 manufacturer coupon. These make it $2.99 or $.09 per diaper.

Also, the best part about drugstore deals is that you can get other items that are money-makers and use the overage towards diapers. Or, sometimes at Rite Aid or CVS, you can use $ off of $ amount coupons, and count that amount towards your diapers, especially if the only other items you get are free or money-makers.

So, I’ve always just written Sam’s Club off as a first-step in saving money, but I can do much better playing the coupon game at the local stores. Recently, Life As Mom wrote a post about Costco (similar to Sam’s) and how going there saves her money. Some of the points she made don’t apply to me (large selection of organic items and gourmet foods) but she said that she can save money on staples and on gas, and those make the membership more than worth it. I’m intrigued.

I’m looking into getting a business membership via my husband’s business (because it’s cheaper than a regular membership), and trying it out. As far as gas goes, I buy as many of the gas gift cards as I can when Publix has the $10 off of a $50 gas card deal, but they don’t have that deal very often. I think I’ll be conducting an experiment to see exactly what kind of deals they have compared to shopping the grocery stores. And of course, I’ll be taking my best helpers!

Free prescriptions at Publix


Speaking of Publix… did you know you can get free prescriptions at Publix? They offer absolutely free (no insurance required) prescriptions for eight different generic antibiotics, as well as some diabetes medicine.

Antibiotics:

Amoxicillin
Cephalexin
Sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (SMZ-TMP)
Ciprofloxacin (excluding Ciprofloxacin XR)
Penicillin VK
Ampicillin
Erythromycin Stearate and Ethylsuccinate
Doxycycline Hyclate (capsules)

Publix also offers free Metformin prescriptions (500, 850, or 1000 mg) each month (up to 90 pills per month). They have no limitations on the number of times you can get the free medication, and you don’t even have to show them an insurance card!

It’s just one more reason why I love Publix!

Saving on magazines

Did you know you can buy magazine subscriptions on Ebay for next to nothing? I get about four magazines for free. I only pay for two magazines, Family Fun, and All You. I pay for All You because it has all the coupons in it, although, I may not be renewing it. I’m still trying to weigh the cost vs the benefits of the coupons, and I’m still not thrilled with the fact that they put coupons in the copies at the store that they don’t put in the ones that come in your mailbox. I also pay for Family Fun because I love the magazine! It’s a great magazine for moms, because it has great ideas for crafts, projects, games, and activities to do with your kids. I also keep every one of my Family Fun magazines because I go back to the ideas over and over, that’s how great it is!

I just bought Family Fun as a Christmas gift (if you’re reading this Bonnie, you already know that I bought it for you!) and I bought it on Ebay. If you go through the magazine, a 1 year subscription will cost you $10, which isn’t horrible as far as magazines go. They boast that it’s 74% off the cover price (which I would NEVER pay). I bought my subscription for $.99 on Ebay. I also renewed my subscription at this price.

A few months ago, my mom was telling me about this magazine that my grandparents buy for all of my uncles, and how they had gotten a renewal notice. The cost for the renewal was ridiculous. I checked Ebay and she was able to get them for much cheaper as well, and they were getting the ‘loyal subscriber’ discount!

I also bought five more magazine subscriptions for Christmas presents from the same seller that I bought the Family Fun magazines. All of them were at least half the price of what I could find anywhere on the internet, including the discount magazine websites.

I’ve bought magazines from Ebay this way for a few years now, and I’ll never buy them any other way! I have no idea how sellers can offer some of these magazines for as cheap as they are, but I love it. Ebay has changed their policy on their auctions recently, and they no longer allow ‘subscriptions’ to be sold, but they do allow ‘vouchers’ for subscriptions. I’m sure it’s similar to the rule that you can’t sell ‘coupons’ but you can sell your time for gathering and clipping the coupons.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a great deal on a magazine, check Ebay out. Not all magazines can be as cheap as $.99, but you should be able to find a significant savings. As with anything you buy on Ebay, make sure you buy from a high-rated seller, and make sure that they don’t have any hidden costs, like the magazine for $.99, but the shipping costs $7! The magazines that I bought came from a seller with over 7,000 ratings and a 99.7% positive feedback score. This is a seller you can trust. I’ll be happy to let anyone know the name of the seller I’ve bought from if you’re interested.

I’ve done it for years, so I know that it works, or I wouldn’t recommend doing it!

What can you do with 12 lbs of sweet potatoes?


The other day I got about 12 lbs of sweet potatoes for $.28/lb. Well, some people might think I’m crazy for buying that many sweet potatoes, so I wanted to show you what I did with them!

It takes a lot of work and time (and mess really, especially in a small-ish kitchen) to do a large-scale cooking project, although this one isn’t as big as quite a few others. So, usually when I do something like this, I plan on something really easy for dinner. Tonight I was planning on fixing a frozen stir fry meal, but my husband came home and said, “how bout pizza tonight?” Twist my arm why don’t you!

I peeled them and cut them into chunks before he got home from work, so that when I ran out to get the pizza, they were boiling on the stove. By the time I got back, they were all done cooking! After dinner, my husband took the older boys outside to do a backyard fire (their favorite activity) and I used my mixer to make them nice and smooth. I didn’t add anything to them! I like to use them in pancakes and muffins, so I don’t add anything for that reason. The ones that I end up using as a side dish will have butter, salt, etc added to them later.

After we put the kids to bed, I scooped it all into quart freezer bags. Each freezer bag holds three cups of puree, which equals to 9 batches of pancakes, three batches of muffins, or one good size side dish. I was able to get six bags of puree for my $3.36 and straight into the freezer they go to be pulled out as needed!

In case you’re wondering, this is my absolute favorite way to use up my sweet potatoes:

Pumpkin/Sweet potato pancakes (can be either, depending on what you have on hand. They’re both delicious!)

1 1/4 c flour
2 T sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c milk
1/3 c puree (pumpkin OR sweet potato)
2 T melted butter
1 egg

Whisk flour, sugar, powder, cinnamon and salt together in one bowl. Mix the remaining ingredients together in another bowl. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Cook as you would normal pancakes.

They’re WONDERFUL! But then again, so are my pumpkin chocolate chip muffins! I don’t make them very often because I can’t stop eating them! Even my husband, who doesn’t like sweet potatoes (crazy!) likes the muffins. He’s a buttermilk pancake eater, so he doesn’t care for the pancakes, but the kids and I love them!

Anyway, that’s what I did with my sweet potatoes!

Stretching your money with holiday gift card promotions

Lots of stores are offering incentives to buy their gift cards, and they have been doing it for the past couple of years. For example, last year, coinstar offered a promotion that I was able to take advantage of. When you redeem your change for one of a few select gift certificates, you don’t have to pay any fee, plus, when you redeemed $40 in coins for an Amazon gift certificate, you would get a $10 bonus, free. The deals are usually similar, around 20% bonus, but it’s an easy way to make my money go 20% further!

Here are some of the current deals available:

Applebee’s: Get a bonus $10 gift card when you buy $50 in gift cards.

Carrabba’s: Get a $20 bonus gift card when you spend $100 on gift cards.

Denny’s: Get a bonus $5 gift card when you buy $25 in gift cards.

Outback Steakhouse (my husband’s favorite!): Get a $20 bonus gift card when you buy $100 worth of giftcards.

Red Robin: Get a $5 Bonus Buck card when you buy $25 in gift cards.

Barnes and Noble: Get a $10 e-gift card when you buy $100 worth of gift cards.

Border’s: In store – get a $10 bonus gift card when you buy $50 worth of gift cards
Online – get a $5 bonus gift card when you buy $50 worth of gift cards

Some people really hate the idea of gift cards, and I’ve read over and over that an incredible percentage of gift cards aren’t even used, but I really love getting gift cards, especially for restaurants.

Date nights are something that my husband and I have a really hard time justifying the cost of, or maybe just I do. We really and truly understand the benefit of having dates and spending time away from the kids, but it’s just hard to justify sometimes. When we get a gift card to a restaurant, it’s not just a gift card, it’s a DATE; a chance for us to get away and reconnect, even if only for a couple of hours.

So, if you’re going to give a gift card, or are planning on spending money yourself at any of these places, take advantage of these gift card promotions, and stretch your money a little further!