Tobins' Tastes: February 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

Saved 64% at Publix

I can't believe it is almost March. I feel like it was just the New Year and I was promising to get back on track with weekly shopping after the holidays. Well (knock on wood), I feel like things are finally starting to slow down and we are actually getting back into our weekly routines.

Justin had off a long weekend (which never happens) so we were able to head to the farmers' market on Saturday and spend about $10 in veggies and another $5 in bread and juice. That allowed us to put off going to Publix until Tuesday which was nice. I was really happy to have $20 in gift cards from blog promos so we actually managed to spend nothing out of pocket at Publix and only $15 in groceries for the whole week.

I am planning on heading to Publix tomorrow to shop the new sale ad so keep an eye out for that trip to be posted over the weekend or on Monday. A few of these deals are from the current advantage flyers to they are still going on this week too.

Breakdown of Tuesday's Publix trip:
Total retail value: $54.99
Total spent: $19.73 (had a $20 gift card to pay with)
Total saved: $35.26
Percent saved: 64%

What I got with sale/coupon match ups:

  • 2 boxes of Sara Lee Pound Cake (frozen), retails for $3.79 each, on sale for $1.89 each
  • 3 Muller Greek Yogurts, retails for $1.25 each, on sale for $1 each
    • Used a $1/3 Publix green advantage flyer coupon (found in store)
    • Stacked with a $1/2 coupon from the 1/5 RP
    • Made them .33 cents each
  • 2 Fresh Attitudes Salad Blends, retails for $3.09 each, on sale BOGO made them $1.54 each
  • 2 Fillipo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oils, retails for $6.79 each, on sale for $4.99 each
  • 5 Dannon and Stonyfield Organic Greek Yogurts, retails for $1.50 each, on sale for $1 each
  • 2 bottles of Bolthouse Farms Juice, retails for $2.89 each, on sale BOGO ($1.44 each)
    • Used two .75 cents off printables from Facebook
    • Made them .69 cents each
  • 1 bottle of Drano, retails for $4.79
    • Used a .55 cents off Publix digital manufacturer coupon
    • Used a $1 off advantage flyer Publix coupon
    • Earned .50 cash back from Checkout 51
    • Made it $2.74
  • 2 pairs of Playtex gloves, retails for $2.99 each, on sale BOGO, made them $1.49 each

Thursday, February 13, 2014

30 Hearty Soup Recipes

I have totally been in a soup mood lately. I think it is the rainy, dark, dreary and pseudo-wintery weather we have been having here in South Florida. With the rest of the country snowed in, it seems like the perfect time to round up some of my favorite soup recipes to help keep you all warm and cozy.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Favorite {Free} Couponing Apps

While most of us use our phones for talking, texting, emailing and Facebooking, your favorite little distraction can actually be used to save you money too. On top of shopping the sales and using coupons, I use apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Cartwheel to save even more when I shop. I have tried a bunch of different couponing apps and these three are by far my favorite. They are also the easiest to use and save with too.


Hands down this is the app I have saved the most money with today. Since I started using it about a year ago, I have earned over $300 in cash back between grocery offers, movie offers, bonuses and referral credits. The best part is that it can be used on top of manufacturer and store coupons as well which can make products very cheap or even free.

The idea behind ibotta is simple. There are a number of "offers" on everyday products like grocery items, toiletries, paper products, movie tickets and more. You do simple tasks like reading a fact or answering a short question to earn the cash back value for the item (ranges from .25 cents to $2+ per item). 

You go to the grocery store and shop as usual. Once you get home you upload a photo of your receipt with the purchased products on it, scan the products barcode (to prove you bought it) and in less than 48 hours, ibotta puts your earnings into your account. Once you reach $5 in cash back you can have that money transferred to your PayPal account or you can cash it in for any amount over $5 in iTunes, Redbox or Starbucks gift cards. Right now they are also offering a $2 bonus to  new users if they redeem their first offer within two weeks of signing up. Learn more about ibotta here and see an example of using it here.

 Checkout 51 :

This is a relatively new app. It is similar to ibotta in that you grocery shop as usual and then upload a photo of your receipt to earn anywhere from .25 cents to $1+ in cash back for each item. Checkout 51 usually only has 10-15 offers and those offers change each week on Wednesday. Their items tend to match up with the current Publix sale cycles but the app can be used for grocery shopping anywhere.

Once your Checkout 51 cash back balance hits $20  they will send you a check. While the offers are limited they do tend to be for high quality items and many times they will also have generic offers for things like .50 cents cash back on any brand of eggs or milk.

If you are obsessed with Target like I am then Cartwheel is a must have app for you. Cartwheel is an app that lets you select from hundreds of discounts ranging from 5% to 50% off, and add them to your personalized Cartwheel barcode. When you shop at Target have the cashier scan your barcode at checkout in store. If you don't have a smart phone you can select and load your offers on the computer and print out the barcode to bring into the store with you too. 

You can use each discounts as many times as you want before they expire and you can even stack Cartwheel on top of your Target REDcard discount and other coupons. Offers are always changing and it is a nice mix between brands and general items like eggs, milk and even meat. There are also offers for the Target cafe, clothing, baby products, household items, decor, holiday items and more.

New to couponing? Check out my Couponing 101 posts to help you get started!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How Using Cash Makes Me A Better Couponer

For those of you who are new here or don't know, Justin and I pay for all of our groceries and household spending in cash. We budget $80 a week in cash for all our shopping at places like Publix, Walmart, Target or drugstores. We also use that $80 a week to cover things like our occasional organic produce shares ($45 each time, now about once a month) and our twice a year Zaycon chicken order ($70-$80 for 40 pounds of chicken)

Many weeks we spend much less than $80 and so I usually save some of the cash as reserve grocery money for bigger shopping weeks and we also use the extra grocery money to go towards any big bills we might have pop up that month or for any short term savings goals we currently have, like buying a new camera on Black Friday.

In the 3 years that I have been couponing, I have constantly been tweaking what I do to find out what works for us, how much we realistically need of each item, and how sale cycles work in my area. However, one of the biggest and most effective changes I have made is couponing using cash.

Although we were seeing a significant impact on our monthly spending by couponing, I still felt like there had to be a better way to make those savings work for us and have a greater impact on our weekly and monthly saving goals.

I have always been a debit card kind of girl. Justin and I have a budget and a savings plan but we just never made that leap to a cash envelope system.  About a year and a half ago, I started to think long and hard about the benefits of using cash. Justin and I discussed it and decided to try using cash for our weekly grocery, toiletries and household shopping. We decided to try it for the month of January last year and we love it so much it is now a permanent part of our lives. 

Here are just four of the ways switching to cash has made me a more effective couponer:

1. It forces me to stick to our budget. 

Let’s face it, as someone who coupons, it can be so tempting to spend a little more because you are getting a great deal. I try to be as practical as I can in my couponing but I still struggle with this every once and awhile.

We have set a budget of $80 a week for all household shopping. This includes groceries, toiletries, and all household items. This allows me to buy what we need and add to my stockpile, pantry and freezer without blowing our weekly budget. If there is a great deal that I want to stock up on, I have to take into account what else we need that week before I take advantage of the deal.

2. It forces me to plan my shopping trips.  

I have always tried to make a list before I go shopping and stick to it. Before I started paying in cash, I could be more flexible with my list and what I chose to buy. 

Now that I only have a set amount of cash to spend, I carry a calculator with me and as I go through my list I add up my total spending to make sure I am staying on target. This forces me to avoid impulse buys and really ask myself if we truly need something or if I am just buying it because it’s a good deal.

3. It keeps our stockpile under control. 

One of the benefits of couponing is having a stockpile or a supply of grocery and household items on hand so you don’t have to make an extra trip and pay full price for something when you run out. It has allowed us plan our meals better, entertain friends on a budget, and give more to homeless shelters and food banks.

Having a set weekly spending budget helps keep our stockpile at a reasonable size. I can’t buy unlimited amounts of things even if it is a great deal. This has forced us to be more practical about couponing and kept us from failing into the trap of having excessive amounts of things or buying what we can’t use in a timely manner.

4. It helps us save more and balance our budget. 

As I said earlier, couponing significantly lowered our weekly and monthly spending. I was able to start budgeting less for groceries and household items but the number still changed from week to week.

We now pull out two week’s worth of spending cash each pay day. This allows me to know exactly what is going to be coming out and budget the rest of our pay checks accordingly.

If we have extra money left in the envelope at the end of the two weeks, we split it between our long term and short term savings accounts or save some of it for reserve grocery money or our produce share. This allows us to save more on top of what we already budget for savings; and by also putting some of it in a “short term” savings account, we can spent that money on house projects or a fun weekend trip. It also gives us a cushion for those bigger shopping weeks when I want to stock up on meat, butter, or other super deals.

If you are reading this and thinking that using cash is a hassle, just know that I was you a year ago. I could never have imagined how something as easy and simple as using cash would make me a more efficient shopper, couponer and budgeter – but I am now converted to the cash envelope system and I’m not looking back!

 Do you a cash system? Do you have any tricks for being an efficient couponer? New to couponing? Check out my Learn To Coupon page to read about the basics for getting started! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Peanut Butter Lovers Cake Mix Cookies

Did you watch the Super Bowl? I was in a room with it on but really I only paid attention to the commercials. Because that's what it's all about right? Commercials and food. Especially desserts. And while there were lots of cute football themed treats my personal favorites from Sunday were these Peanut Butter Lover's Cake Mix Cookies.

Talk about the perfect combo of peanut butter and chocolate. (which is a perfection in and of itself). These cookies start out with a traditional cake mix cookie base using Devil's Food cake mix, add in some peanut butter chips and top with a melty Reese's heart and you have what one of my fellow game watchers called "the absolute best cookie I have ever put in my mouth."

This same friend is someone who I would consider to have significant will power when it comes to restraining herself around desserts. (And I mean that in the best way possible). Unlike me, she can usually just have one cookie or she opts for fruit instead of cake. So when she went back for seconds, thirds and possibly even fourths, I knew that I wasn't just being biased in saying these are amazing.

You can always switch these up if it's not Valentine's season by using a regular Reese's in the middle instead of a heart or you can leave them plain as I did with some of the dough. I will tell you that the cookies with hearts in the middle were WAY more popular than those without. So much more popular that my mom and aunt may have hidden some of them for later so that they wouldn't get stuck with the plain ones. (Remember how I told you my family hoards food? See I wasn't kidding)

Peanut Butter Lovers Cake Mix Cookies
  • 1 box of Devil's Food cake mix (just the mix)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup of peanut butter chocolate chips (I used the mixed Nestle morsels)
  • 24 Reese's Hearts or Reese's Cups unwrapped
1.) Mix together the cake mix, eggs, oil and baking power until a cookie batter forms. 

2.) Stir in the chocolate/peanut butter chips.

3.) Drop by rounded scoops onto a greased or parchment covered baking sheet.

4.) Bake for 6 minutes at 350 degrees.

5.) After 6 minutes remove the cookies and gently press an unwrapped Reese's heart (or cup) into the center of the cookie. Finish baking at 350 degrees for 3 more minutes. The Reese's will melt completely if you leave them in the oven longer than that. 

6.) Let cool and enjoy!

Looking for more Valentine's Day fun? Check out my Valentine's Day Pinterest board!

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