Walmart, Love It? Or Hate It?

   For me, the answer is “both”.  There are some things I love about Walmart and other things I hate about it.  I went grocery shopping at Walmart for the first time in over six months on Friday.  Why?  Because Walmart has overhauled their coupon policy for the better just a few short weeks ago!  Walmart has always done price-matching, which means they will match the price of a competitor’s current sale ad. (You must have the sale ad with you to show the cashier.)  Now Walmart will accept competitor coupons that state the item for a certain price. (They won’t take competitor coupons for dollars/ cents off a particular item though.)  The best part of Walmart’s new coupon policy is overage!  They will now allow a coupon to exceed the price of the item, and the overage will be applied to the other items in your order or you can get CA$H back!  Yes, you read that right!  Their coupon policy also clarifies that Walmart DOES accept internet printed coupons, with the exception of free items that don’t require a purchase.  It’s a good idea to print out a copy of Walmart’s new policy and keep it in your coupon binder: 
            One thing I really hate about Walmart is NO double coupons.  I’m used to shopping at Kroger where I can get unlimited double coupons every day.  I noticed as I was shopping on Friday that there were some things I got for a steal with my coupons, like bags of kitty litter for 27 cents apiece, ice cream cones for less than half the cost at Kroger, and great prices for organic items, like Kashi cereal bars and Wolfgang Puck organic soup.  Other items seemed pricey, like yogurt, milk, and ice cream, especially since my coupons weren’t being doubled and I’m not earning any gas points.  Typically the produce at my local Walmart leaves much to be desired too.
            So the verdict for me is that I will probably stop into Walmart once every few weeks for a few select items that I know are cheapest there.  My regular weekly shopping will stay with Kroger for their good prices, gas points, superior customer service, and great quality on their fresh items.
            So, how do you feel about Walmart?  Do you love it?  Do hate it?  Tell us what you think and why!

Meal Planning Monday! It’s all about the Breakfast!

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.
Meal Planning isn’t just for your dinners!  You’ll save even more money and time by planning your breakfasts and lunches.  This week is all about the breakfast, which many health experts agree is the most important meal of the day.  Most of us are so rushed in the morning we barely have time to scarf down a bowl of Lucky Charms or grab a donut.  With a little forethought, you can have nutritious and tasty breakfast items in the freezer, ready to pop in the microwave.
I have a busy week coming up; my husband and I are going on our first vacation without kids in 6 years!  I’ll need some quick things to make for breakfast so I can start packing. I do a lot of Freezer Cooking and that makes it so much easier to plan my breakfasts. If I have time while I’m making a fresh batch of muffins, I’ll make a few more batches and freeze them. I do the same with a lot of other breakfast foods. You could do sausage biscuits, hash browns, pancakes, or omelets to name a few.  Who wouldn’t love a pancake breakfast on a school day, thanks to a minute in the microwave?
            So, what is on the breakfast Meal Plan for the Kelley household this week?
Sunday  ~  Pancakes (I’ll make a double or triple batch and freeze some of them.)

Monday  ~  Freezer French Toast

Tuesday  ~  Maple Oatmeal and Fresh Strawberries

Wednesday  ~  Cinnamon French Toast

Thursday  ~  Cereal with fresh fruit

Friday and Saturday ~ Freezer Muffins. (I’m sending my sister-in-law, Amber, who has so graciously agreed to watch our three kids while we’re on vacation, a few batches of muffins I made so she has an easy breakfast.)

            This week we’re going to give you some tips for jazzing up store-bought pancake mix.  I recently got several boxes of pancake mix for 50 cents apiece at a recent Kroger Mega Sale. Freeze extra pancakes in individual servings.  Pop them in the microwave straight from the freezer for about 45 seconds.  For each variety add the following per 1 cup of dry pancake mix:
·        Cinnamon Walnut Pancakes: Add ¼ of finely chopped walnuts (or pecans) and ¼ tsp. of cinnamon.
·        Berry Pancakes: Add ¼ cup of frozen or fresh blueberries.
·        Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip: Add 2 Tbs of peanut butter and ¼ cup of mini chocolate chips.
·        Country Boy Pancakes: Add ¼ cup of cooked crumbled sausage.

Meal Planning Monday!

            Meal Planning is important key to stretching your food budget, whether you use coupons or not.  That’s why we’ve decided to do a weekly blog post called, “Meal Planning Monday!”  My sister, Leah Kelley, and I will take turns every Monday sharing our meal plans for the upcoming week and a recipe or two for a fast, inexpensive, and tasty meal. We will also share some tips on making meal planning easy and fun.
            How do you start if you’ve never done any Meal Planning?  I would suggest you write out all the meals your family likes to eat for dinner. Most people have eight to ten recipes that they rotate.  You may want to pick a new recipe to try too (like the one I’ve included below.) Get out a calendar and start assigning your dinners to the days.  I save the meals that take more time and effort for the weekends, and you may want to do the same.  There are some days that I won’t be cooking because I’m teaching a Coupon Workshop, getting a massage, or going to bible study, and I’ll note that on my meal planning calendar. I usually refer to those as FFY Nights, or “Fend For Yourself”!  On FFY nights, we usually eat leftovers, a sandwich, or a frozen dinner.
            So, what is on the Meal Plan for the Luken household this week?
            Monday – Turkey Stroganoff with Peas
            Tuesday – Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Salad
            Wednesday – No Cooking, Dinner with Friends!
            Thursday – Coconut Crusted Tilapia, Jasmine Rice, and Veggies
            Friday – Grilled Cheese & Soup
            Saturday – Creamy Chicken & Vegetables in the Crockpot
            Sunday – Turkey Chili
            This week’s recipe is Turkey Stroganoff, which only takes 15 to 20 minutes to make from start to finish.  It’s a healthy version of the stick-to-your-ribs favorite!
Recipe – Turkey Stroganoff
1 Lb. Ground Turkey (or Beef)
1 ½ Cups of Fresh Sliced Mushrooms
1 Can of Low-Fat Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ Cup of Beef Broth
1 Cup of Light Sour Cream
Whole Wheat (or regular) Egg Noodles
Boil water and cook noodles according to package directions.  Brown turkey or beef with mushrooms in a large frying pan with a small amount of olive oil.   Drain turkey and mushrooms.  Return them to the pan and add the soup, broth, and sour cream.  Stir until well blended.  Allow to simmer for 3 – 4 minutes.  Serve over egg noodles.  I usually make some frozen peas or green beans to round out the meal.  Serves 4.

Flexing the Muscle of Your Coupon Savings

Chances are, many of you are saving a lot of money using the tips I share on the Confessions of a Coupon Queen Facebook page.  I have been couponing for 3 years now and I have saved over $15,000 in that time.  Wow!  That’s a lot of money!  The first few months of my couponing I didn’t really have a plan for the money I saved.  In fact, I blew most of it, which is what usually happens when you don’t have a plan.
            You can use your coupon savings to drastically improve your family’s finances, if you have a good plan for that money.  There are several good things to do that found money.  First, you should have an emergency savings fund for your household of at least $1,000.  Why?  This is your safety net that catches you when life happens (which it always does) – the car battery dies, the furnace goes out, you need to take your child to the emergency room for a skate boarding accident and have a $150 co-pay.  Having that $1,000 emergency fund will give you peace of mind that you don’t have to charge your emergency to a credit card.  You should have a goal of three to six months of living expenses in your savings.  In this economy where layoffs are a real possibility, that’s a smart thing to do.
             Do you know that you can make 18% on your money?  How?  By NOT paying 18% to the credit card companies!  Once you have your emergency fund in place, it’s time to attack your credit card debt with your coupon savings.  Many credit cards are charging exorbitant interest rates, which eat away at your income every month. So start with your smallest balance card and “attack” the little one first.  This will give you a quick success and keep your momentum going.  
            Does this mean that you can’t have any fun with your coupon savings?  Of course not!  Allocate 10 – 20% of your coupon savings for something fun for yourself.  This will be your reward for coupon clipping and bargain hunting!  If you are already out of debt and have an emergency fund, save the other 80 -90% for a bigger splurge! Maybe you are going to save for a new designer purse (on sale of course!), a special piece of jewelry, or a family vacation to Disney World.