Friday, February 11, 2011

Couponing Rule: Buy as Little as Possible

I can hear you saying "Buy as little as possible?  I thought couponing is about stocking up!"  Let me rephrase it:
  • buy the smallest packages that fit the requirements of the coupon and the sale.  If several different size boxes of tea are on sale and you have $__off any size coupons  - do not buy the biggest boxes.  Buy the smallest boxes and you'll save more money.  Lipton Tea 16 count on sale for $1.06 each.  I had two $0.60/1 coupons.  My cost = $0.46 each; less than the sale cost of one.
  • .46 each
  • feel free to go to a store to buy only one or two items.  Resisting the lure of the items you don't have coupons for will save you money.  The dish detergent was on sale $1 each, and they had a buy 5 get a $1 Register Reward going. I bought 5 ($5). I had three $0.25/1 coupons ($4.25). 
    I also had a $5.00 Register Reward to use up from last week, BUT it's only good on purchases of $5 or more. I had to buy more. Progresso soup was on sale for $3.00 a can.  I bought 4 ($12).  I had a 4/$5 in-ad store coupon ($5) and $1/4 manufacturer's coupon ($4).  My total for the soup and the soap after coupons = $8.25 less $5 Register Rewards = $3.25 AND they gave me $1 Register Reward for next week. So the total for the soup and soap is $2.25  THIS WAS ALL I BOUGHT AT WALGREENS.
  • look for opportunities to combine a sale, a loyalty reward, a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon.  I bought two FrizzEase products. Normally $8.00 each, on sale for $6.00 each ($12), had two $1/1 coupons ($10), a $4 ExtraBucks loyalty coupon ($6). For buying $10 or more of this brand, I received a $3 ExtraBucks for my next shopping trip, bringing this purchase down to $3.00 or $1.50 each. Not bad for Frizz-Ease!  THIS WAS ALL I BOUGHT AT CVS.
  • $1.50 each
  • plan your shopping based on what you use regularly, your current inventory, the sales and the coupons you have.  It makes no sense to buy cheap ______ if you hate that brand and won't use it. I bought several bottles of Dove Shower Wash when it was super cheap last summer, only to discover that I don't like it.  Gave it away = lost money.
  • be flexible and try new products or brands if the price is right.  New Crunchy Nut cereals were on sale 2/$5.  I had a store coupon Buy One Get One Free ($2.50) and two $1/1 manufacturer's coupons ($0.50).  My cost = $0.25 each. The price was right.
  • $0.25 each
    • Catalina coupons are manufacturer's coupons and can be used at any store.  The Luna bar coupon was a Catalina that I got at Jewel.  It was good for a free bar up to $1.00.  Luna bars are $1.25 at Jewel.  I redeemed it at Target, where Luna bars are on sale for .99.  Free.  There was a moment's confusion when the cashier saw it was issued at Jewel.  I (nicely, alway nicely) pointed out that it said Manufacturer's Coupon and he keyed it through.  Free lunch. Literally. I had this free Luna bar for lunch. Take that coupon to the store and get that free item. Free is FREE!

    PLANned Comfort Food

    Kielbasa and Peppers
    This is one of those recipes that really doesn't have measurements.  You chop and drop the ingredients into the pan as they're chopped, then simmer until done.  In the summer I'll use whatever is ripe in the garden - fresh tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, fresh tyhme or basil.  Sometimes, I'll add a can of tomato sauce to thicken up the pan sauce.
    Numbers according to The Plan: 1 serving = 2.7 ounces meat and 1 1/4 cups vegetables; 1/2 cup risotto = 4 ounces grain.

    Kielbasa and Peppers
    1 lb. Turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/2" diagonal slices
    2-3 onions, peeled and cut in 1/2" chunks
    1 rib celery, diagonally sliced
    1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1" chunks
    2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 tsp. thyme
    2 pints (or 14 ounce cans) diced tomatoes (not petite diced)

    Coat your largest non-stick skillet (or Dutch oven) with Pam.  Put it over high heat and let it get really hot while you slice the kielbasa.  Dump it into the pan.
    Peel and chunk the onions.  Dump them into the pan.  Stir.  The kielbasa may look a little charred.  This is good.
    Seed and chunk the pepper.  Dump it into the pan.  Stir. Charring on onions is good.
    Peel and mince the garlic.  Scatter it into the pan. Stir. Charring on peppers is good.
    Let cook, stirring occasionally until peppers are a bit charred on the edges and onion is almost translucent.
    Add tomatoes with their juice.  Stir.
    Sprinkle the thyme into the pan. Stir.
    Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium.  Allow to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.  You'll have a nice bit of sauce in the bottom of the pan.  Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.
    Serves 6

    Serve over polenta OR hot buttered wide noodles or alongside potatoes.
    This meal we had browned onion risotto with it.

     What's cooking in your kitchen?

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    PLANned Celebration - Chinese New Year

    Kung Pao Chicken over Fried Rice
    Following a diet Plan doesn't mean going without.  I can, and do, eat anything I want - as long as I don't exceed my daily goals.  This yummy meal stays well within the plan and it is equally yummy using firm soy bean curd instead of chicken.  My husband doesn't care for soy, so I make it with boneless skinless chicken or turkey.  Happy husband, happy wife, happy life.

     I found the original recipe at Hungry Girl, but then made so many changes, that it's pretty much my recipe now.  The ingredients are all staples in my kitchen, so I make this fairly often.  I use frozen stir-fry veggies because everything is already in there, nicely chopped with no waste.  Just be aware of any quick cooking veggies contained in it (in this blend, it's sugar snap peas) and either sort them out to add them later or use them to judge when to add the sauce. I want the peas hot, but not limp and the carrots and broccoli tender-crisp, so I pull the sugar snap peas out of the mix and add them in partway through the cooking time.  Like everything in life, it's a balancing act.

    I recommend using a high sided pan to catch spatters. I like using my dutch oven because it's non-stick. I had a wok for a long time and just didn't use it.  I kept reaching for my dutch oven, so I gave the wok away and haven't missed it.

    Homemade Fried Rice

    Kung Pao Chicken

    Very loosely adapted from Hungry Girl
    4 servings
    Counts for The Plan: 3.5 oz meat, 1 1/3 cup veg., ½ cup fruit, 1 teaspoon oil per serving

    12 oz. raw boneless skinless lean chicken breast
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    1 Tablespoon canola oil
    1 (16 oz.) package frozen stir-fry vegetables
    2 Tablespoons water
    2 tablespoons dry-roasted unsalted peanuts

    2 tablespoons + ¼ cup cold water
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    4 tablespoons reduced-sodium/light soy sauce
    3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
    1 clove minced garlic (1 tsp.)
    ¼ cup Sweet Thai Chili Sauce

    1. Cut chicken into ½” cubes. Place in bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons cornstarch; set aside. Bring a Dutch oven or wok to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; when it shimmers, add chicken, and brown on all sides.

    2. While chicken browns, make the sauce in the same bowl that had the chicken in it. Combine 2 tablespoons cold water with 1 tablespoon cornstarch until smooth; then add ¼ cup water, soy sauce, vinegar, minced garlic and chili sauce. Stir until all ingredients have dissolved. Set sauce aside.

    Serve with Fried Rice or steamed rice (½ cup cooked rice = 3.5 grain).
    Fried Rice
    4 servings
    1 cup fried rice = 3.5 oz. grain, ½ cup veg., 1/2 oz. meat

    1 cup diced carrot
    2 cups leftover cooked rice, cold
    3 scallions, sliced, greens and whites separate
    ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
    2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
    Pinch 5 spice powder, optional
    1 egg
    1 cup frozen peas, thawed

    Heat large skillet, when hot, spray with non-stick; add the carrot and stir fry 30 seconds. Add rice and white part of scallions, stir fry 2 minutes. Combine sesame oil, soy sauce and 5 spice, sprinkle over rice mixture in skillet. Stir to combine. Push to side of pan. Add egg and scramble. Stir into rice mixture. Add peas; stir into rice. Garnish with green parts of scallions.

    3. Stir chicken, add vegetables and 2 tbsp. of water; cover and allow to steam 1 minute. Remove cover and stirring occasionally, cook until water evaporates. Add peanuts. Raise heat to high, stir sauce to get cornstarch off of bottom of bowl, and add to the pan. Stir to coat all ingredients in sauce. Cook and stir until sauce boils and thickens.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Couponing in the Storm

    WHY would I go to Jewel right before the Storm of the Century hits? For deals like these.

    They PAID me $1.52 to take them home!
    I made money by buying these 2 bottles of soy sauce.  They were on sale for $1.99 each.  I used a BOGO which, because the cashier entered the maximum coupon value of $3.00, brought it down to $.49 each, then I used a $1.00 off 1 coupon which brought it down to -.01 each and earned a catalina for $1.50.  Which means they paid me $1.52 to take them home.  AND I used .55 off a dozen eggs with purchase of soy sauce. (I know what you're thinking: "Soy sauce and eggs?"  It had a recipe for fried rice attached).  

    They also had a one of their Fave 4 deals going.  This one was 4 for $10.  If you buy 4 meat items (from a list), they are price adjusted to $2.50 each.  I had to make that better with coupons.  In their ad was a store coupon for $2 off 2 Johnsonville sausage (2 of my 4), which I stacked with a $1 off 2 Johnsonville sausage manufacturer's coupon which took it down to $1.00 each.  The other 2 packages of meat were Jewel brand, which didn't have any coupons.

    On to peanut butter
    Jewel had Skippy peanut butter on sale for 2/$3.00.  Inside their ad was a coupon for $2 off 2.  I bought 2 jars of Skippy peanut butter for $1.00 ...

    that's .50 each!

    My last deal may not seem to be so great, but if you've bought Polaner All Fruit jams, you know a)how good it is and b)how expensive it is.  This jar, normally $2.99 was on sale for $1.99 and I had a $1 coupon.  I love coupons.
    $1.00 jar of Polaner All Fruit
    I also bought soy milk using $1.00 off coupon, almond milk $1.00 off coupon, Healthy Life buns .35 off coupon, carrots, bananas, romaine, ground sirloin and margarine (no coupons).