Today's Obssession

"Have you seen that show where those people get all of that stuff for free with coupons? They're probably a bunch of lazy people without jobs."

-Guy behind me in the checkout lane at Giant Eagle last week. What a douche.

P. Manolos

Post-Christmas Sale Items at Kroger

Kroger didn't disappoint me this week...

I didn't intend to go to Kroger to buy anything except a few items that had a coupon that was set to expire at the end of the month. Lots and lots of face wash if you really want to know. I had a ton of high value coupons ($2.00 off) and I didn't want them to go to waste. I always need face wash and the fact that I only had three bottles in my closet freaked me out a bit. If I have less than three of anything I get a bit freaked out......

Well, let's be honest it freaked me out a lot. So off to Krogers I went. I had no idea they would have any markdowns left. I guess I've been a really good girl this year because look at all the goodies I found:

I'm really sorry if the picture is pretty blurry, I can't seem to locate my behemoth Nikon right now and I wanted to snap these photos before I made my way to bed. The gift boxes were a fantastic find at 62 cents a pack. Yes they're green and red, but they definitely come in handy when you need to wrap a gift and you're out of boxes. Who wants to pay $2.00 for one box when you can pay less than 10 cents? There's plenty of chocolate in the picture too. $1.00 bag - $1.00/3 coupon = around 0.65 a bag. Did I mention Hershey Kisses make great Peanut Butter Kiss cookies? Mmmmmmmm!

Nutcrackers. I missed the ballet, so I guess this is the next best thing. These little guys were soo freakin cute and I've always wanted to be one of "those people" who have tons of Xmas decorations around the house and you feel like Santa is going to pop out of the bathroom with a newspaper and a quizzical look on his face as to why you're out of bed on Christmas eve. (NO ONE is to old for the Claus man!).  They were $1.00 a piece. Not bad considering they were $4.00 a piece before Xmas.

And now ladies & gents, for my absolute favorite find of the evening (cue drum roll):

A reusable plastic Starbucks cup. The cup has a ton of holiday decorations on it, but I'm completely OK with rocking Xmas all throughout the new year. I love reusable cups because they're better for the environment and are so much fun to carry around. If you went to the store on December 1, this baby would have cost you $10.00. For me, the cup was only $3.97, well over 50% off.

So if you haven't caught the drift of my post yet, let me lay it out for you straight with no chaser. If you love holiday decorations/wrapping paper/etc, buy it after Christmas. Non-perishable items will keep very well in a tightly enclosed plastic bin and you'll be able to take them out when the holiday season rolls around. Many holiday items can also be used throughout the year for other events.

Happy Holidays!

P. Manolos

P.S.- Did I mention the cashier took more than 3 coupons today??! I was ready to split everything, but he said hey don't worry about it I'll just scan them all together. Merry Christmas indeed!!

A Financial Disconnect

If you saw me four years ago...You wouldn't recognize me.

I don't remember a week back then where I didn't have something new to add to my closet, gone shopping until my wallet was sucked dry, or spent $50.00 on dinner without a blink of an eye. I guess you can say if I were a Model Penal Code mental state I would be recklessness- which for my non-legal readers out there it is when a defendant knows of a substantial and unjustifiable risk and consciously disregards that risk.

Unjustifiable and substantial risks. Financial risks are just as scary as riding around without a seatbelt on the highway or engaging in unprotected sex with a stranger. Like the aforementioned acts, you may find yourself injured and overly exposed. For example, I knew that going to Bebe or Nordstrom would inevitably lead me to the sales rack and I would spend hours shifting through clothes just to find the perfect outfit. Stupid considering the fact that many of the things I bought were so trendy, I would find myself dropping it off at the Goodwill a few weeks later when I'm sick of seeing it in the closet.

Have you ever seen those commercials and apparel items that talk about being a "Shopoholic" and how proud we as women are to walk around wearing that crap? It's like a giant neon sign that says "Hey everyone, I'm an adult who enjoys making stupid, reckless decisions with my money and gamble my entire future away on stuff... Oh and did I mention you'll eventually have to pick up the tab for my recklessness?" Remember the early 2000s when credit was so fast and loose that anyone with a pulse could get some plastic? Those days are long, long gone. Yet, is it just me or have we not learned the hard, hard truth about our money? Losing our homes to foreclosure, feeling the pressure of bill collectors, and even starving families in Surburbia still hasn't quite sunk the American "go buy it all" spirit. So when will our country learn as a whole quit trying to keep up with the Jones?

I think the greatest lesson we have learned from the recession is our disconnect from our money. Remember the days before credit cards and 24hr ATM machines? I don't because I'm only 26, but I can't help but wonder if technology has robbed us from something that is so crucial to good financial health: a connection to our pocketbooks. We can feel a dollar bill in our hands, but we certainly can't feel $500.00 coming out of a plastic card. There was a time when I felt my own disconnection with my finances and often spent for a lifestyle that frankly I couldn't keep up with. Americans as a whole would use credit to buy into the life of the rich and famous because they could just pay the minimum and still have some money in the bank.

Now there's no credit and even less money in the bank. Our country is finally getting back onto a path of fiscal conservatism and pragmatic living. Do we really need to have two cars in the garage and 120 inch plasma TV? Don't get me wrong, I still love designer clothes and going out to the mall every once in a while. I've only changed my relationship and attitude towards the hard earned money I place in the bank each week. My own personal money philosophy is as follows: if I want it, I'll save for it, if I need it I'll buy it, and if I can't afford it, I'll make sacrifices to be in a position to do so in the future. 

Strange thing for a budding attorney to say huh? As the holiday season approaches, I do hope you'll consider giving out a gift that is never returned and always appreciated: fiscal sanity. He doesn't need the new car, and you damn well don't need that $800.00 purse. If you're making enough salary to buy either of those items in cash, then I tip my hat off to you. If not, just take a deep breath and place the plastic on the floor and your hands above your head where I can see them.

Merry Xmas!

P. Manolos

Today's Obsession

Thank God it's raining.

I'll take rain over snow any day.

P. Manolos

When "teh" stupid strikes- How to Avoid teh Bad Cashier

 Yea, that miss-spelling is on purpose. It didn't seem right to spell "the" properly after the experience I went through last night at Kroger.

The is one of those words no one should spell incorrectly. After all, didn't we start out with saying the naturally when we were children? Even before anyone of us stopped pooping in our diapers, we somehow knew that we couldn't get a point across with a "the".

Well, last night "teh" (pronounced "tuh" or "durrr" or durka durka if you will) cashier at Kroger hit me with a hot, steamy plate of "teh stupid". I was just running to teh store to get three things- two dozen eggs and a frozen pizza.

I had two coupons with me, one coupon was the fantastic .55/2 dozen eggs coupon from the Incredible egg website (God bless them, I was able to score two dozen eggs for .75 cents/dozen last night). I decided to go through the self check out because I wanted to just get in and get out, I mean this was no extreme couponing trip for me where I would walk out getting paid money to leave the store. I didn't even bring my binder because I just hoped in my little heart that two little measley coupons wouldn't get me in any trouble.

Well, I was wrong as hell and before you know it, teh stupid hit me like a jilted surburban housewife. I should have saw it coming, I've done a dance with this cashier before. As soon as I finished scanning my items and looked over to see who the "assisting associate" would be, I sighed. I've nicknamed her Cousin It because of her long, shaggy hair that doesn't swish from side to side, but lays against her face and entire body like those giant mats of seaweed that drift onto the beach and you try your hardest not to step in.  Last time the two of us had a dance, the exchange went like this:

Cousin It: Ummmm, excuse me ma'am, we only take 3 like coupons per trip now.
Me: Oh really, I wasn't aware of that. I was hear just a few days ago and I was able to use more than 3.
Cousin It: Well, that cashier shouldn't have done that. I can do separate transactions for every three items, but I can't accept all three for one.
Me: Nevermind then, I'll just get three hand soaps, thank you.

Man was that a clusterf*ck. I spent a lot of time that week going to Kroger 2 a day to get .18 hand soap. With a price like that you stock up as many as possible and wait until they're free again.

So you can imagine my chagrin when she came over and said one of teh dumbest things I've heard in a while from a cashier:

Cousin it: Ummmmmm durka durka durka We durka durka don't take durka durka internet coupons over $2.00 durka durka durka because they tend to be fradulent. I'll have to talk to my errr.... manager.. 
Me: Ummm, ok. (Inside I just wanted to pop off and tell her where to go with the $2.00/1 Digiorno Pizza Q).
Cousin it promptly returned and scanned both of my coupons. "You're good to go honey". Oh yea? Now you're calling me honey?

I did I post a while back on how to verify if your coupon is legit, but for now I'll just give you a few pointers on how to work with difficult cashiers like Cousin It. How to avoid "teh" stupid and get through your shopping trip without a hitch. Here's some points to keep in mind.

1. You will always know more than the cashier- We aren't in Kansas anymore and it's no longer the golden year of 1950 where people made a career out of being a cashier. With the amount they get paid per hour, the grocery chains experience high turnover and attract employees who are less than likely to educate themselves on what a proper coupon looks like or there store policy. Always keep a copy in your binder- I understand the Krogers refuses to distribute a printout policy, but you can find policies posted for other stores like Giant Eagle, CVS, Wags, etc.

2. Ask questions- If your cashier says they "don't take" a certain coupon or a number of coupons, take out your printout of the store policy and show them. If this still doesn't work out in you favor, ask for a manager. I know it feels like you're being a major douche, but this is really the only way the cashier is going to learn and perhaps make shopping easier for the next couponer.

3. If the manager doesn't allow it, you're toast- Yes. Many stores have language in their policies that state "at the manager's discretion." So if they decide they don't want to take your coupon, you can (and should IMO), leave without making the purchase. You should also call the corporate office and file a complaint about the store and describe in detail who you dealt with and which coupon you tried to use. The corporate office will usually forward your complaint to the store and you can either elect to hear from the store manager or decline to do so.

4. If you've got a good cashier, stick with them- I know this sounds strange, but if you find that a particular cashier is very nice to you, then try to plan shopping around the same time they're working. It's okay for a cashier to verify that you bought everything in your bag- that's there job. It's not okay for them to frown at you, berate you, or reject your coupon without justification based on store or the manufacturer's policy. If it's a really hot deal and you've got a few extra Qs, be sure to give your cashier a couple of them so they can score a few items.

5. Be Polite- I can't emphasize to you enough how important it is to just be polite. Unfortunately for couponers, we aren't the average shopper and we stick out like a sore thumb. Being a mean couponer sets the impression to the cashier that all couponers are bickering penny pinching psychos hell bent on making their day a living hell.

P. Manolos


My savings goal for the end of the year.

I'm currently sitting at $4,468.65.

Just a few hundred bucks away from saving over $5,000.00 this year just by using coupons. Amazing huh? Who knew that those tiny slips of paper in the Sunday news could make such a huge impact.

Stackin' Paper,

P. Manolos

I'm all Backed Up


Get your mind out of the gutter and pass the peanut butter... and if you're out of peanut butter,  I've got about 12 bottles in the cabinet you can borrow.  All of my cabinets in the kitchen are filled to the brim with canned goods, pasta, cereal and even a random box of gum (gum is always free with a coupon). I can't begin to describe to you how badly I need to buy can organizers! Not to mention a chest freezer (BTW- I saw one on sale for Black Friday, but I wasn't about to fight the crowds to grab a freezer... not to mention the shipping cost).  I'm still debating on whether it's time for me to move down to the basement or encroach on my beautiful cleaning supply closet with canned goods. I'm picky about where everything is stored.

Here's a photo of my pantry closet:

Yup. That's at least 20 boxes of cereal, 4 bottles of syrup, and 20 cans of Campbell's soup among other various items. Staying organized is crucial in the coupon game. You need to be able to know exactly when everything will expire and how much of any one given item you'll use in a week/month/year. For example, 20 boxes of cereal sounds excessive, but I usually get through 1.5 boxes a week. Most cereal has an expiration date of at least 8 months to one year after you purchase it.  At a rate of 1.5/week I'll finish off all of my cereal well before it expires.

Chex mix anyone?
I love grocery shopping for my parents too. I bought 11 boxes of Chex Mix last week for my Mom. She's pretty limited on the type of cereal she can eat due to her gluten allergy. So when I saw that Chex Mix was on sale for 3/$5.00 at GE, I knew I had to stock up. I had coupons of various values, $1.10/2, $1.00/2, and my favorite $1.00/1.  Pretty tough to beat that price. Did I mention I also get fuel points for all of my purchases?  Gravy train just keeps on coming.

P. Manolos

Mayhem, Chaos, and Coupon Porn: Vol I

****Warning:  The following photo may cause you to either pass out, tremble with excitement, or seethe in envy***

I'm hoping for feeling #3.

Nothing is more reflective of how I've been feeling lately than my stockpile. Complete and utter chaos. Some of the sections of my at-home grocery store look great. Let's start with my cleaning supply closet.

Yup. that's just 3/4ths of what I have stored in there shown in the picture. I can't tell you how excited I was to get the top shelves filled up. Now what to do with some of the extra space on the third shelf? I've got enough laundry detergent to last for at least 2 years (and that's if I don't give away bottles to friends an family like I usually do) and I'm pretty good on dish detergent. I love this room. Neat rows filled with cleaning supplies that I'll probably never have time to use.

You'll just have to check in this week to see the rest of my stockpile ;-)

P. Manolos

Today's Obsession

Why the hell has my MAC decided to die on me?

I guess now is better than a year ago when I was studying for 3L exams at this time.

Life is crazy right now. I spend my days at work and my evenings studying for the bar exam or hunting down food for the winter... like a bear... Just like a bear. Except I store food in cupboards instead of pockets of fat located all over my body.

Ugh, come to think of it... maybe I'm just like a bear right now?

Do the Right thing, All the time, Everytime

I heard this cheesy line somewhere... I want to say I heard it at work in regards to safety or some sort of ethics issue.

Got to love HR propaganda.

Our first lesson in law school was to realize that the day we signed the paperwork to enroll in our classes, we also signed up to become a different breed of human being. All we do is think about risk and how to avoid it. If we can't avoid it, then we figure out who the hell should pay for it when the proverbial "sheet" hits the fan. Everything in life has a certain amount of risk to it, we just need to figure out whether the costs are worth more than the pay off.

So imagine my chagrin today when I went to go get a fritter from the work coffee shop and I find in the corner of the elevator three very crisp $20.00 bills.

Oh sigh. A test.

A much younger, non-law school version of me would have taken the money and run. You've seen the miracles I can pull of with just a few bucks, getting $60.00 is like winning the lottery.

My older, wiser, and responsible self took over today and I promptly took the $60.00 to the security desk for the reckless money trasher to pick up if they even realize they're missing $60.00 in the first place.

Le sigh.

When you sign up to become a lawyer, your obligation to the code of ethics is 24/7 worldwide. Doesn't matter if you're sleeping, in Dubai, or drunk in a gutter somewhere. You've got to be honest or you're taking the risk of losing your license.  Would I have lost the ability to take the bar exam by pocketing a few bucks? Maybe, maybe not. But I wasn't about to take that risk.

It's a risk that's way too pricey to take.

P. Manolos

Today's Obsession

Ooooohhhhh, ahhhhh!!! Notice the freshly done french manicure! I'm definitely channeling my favorite coupon blogger, the Coupon Goddess in this pic.  I always envy how gorgeous her nails look each time she takes a pic of her hands.

Admiration aside, I'm completely obsessed with this tea. Why, you ask? Well for one, a few weeks ago Target had an awesome deal where:

1. Target released a $1.00/1 Tazo tea coupon on their website
2. They also price cut the tea to $2.79 box
3. AND there was also a $1.50/1 Tazo manufacturer coupon in circulation.

Sorry guys, this is a dead deal. Yes, I'm a tease. But I'm worth it :)!

In other words my friends, the perfect storm and the chance for me to get a fantastic box of tea for mere pennies. Tazo Rest Herbal Infusion tea appealed to me mainly because it was made with rose hips. I really didn't think the tea could actually help me get any more rest than I'm used to these days....

I was wrong. DEAD wrong. After a night of sleeping like an absolute log (even in spite of the min-pin shaking his collar in my face every 2 hrs), I began to wonder whether or not Tazo decided to slip some Ambien in the tea or if they came up with a new wonder drug.

The only unfortunate thing for me is that I only grabbed one box... Sigh, here's to hoping we'll get more coupons soon.


P. Manolos


If a title for a blogpost doesn't come to me in .5 seconds, I feel like a failure. So imagine how I felt when I sat here tonight for a full five minutes without any clue on what to say.

Lots of ups and downs in my life lately.  More downs than ups really.

Remember when we were kids and we got sooo freakin' jealous when the other kids got a new toy or were able to cross the street before we were even allowed to take the training wheels off our bikes? Or maybe flash forward to being in junior high and all the other girls had boobs and you were just two cotton balls in a jumper.. Well, I didn't have that problem, but I can imagine how much that sucked for you.

Ha. Ha. Setting humor aside, let's move forward to the present. 2011. If you were to ask me 10 years ago where I would be right now, I would tell you I would be an attorney at a law firm somewhere starting a prestigious career. I'd also tell you that I have a wonderful family with a bunch of nappy headed chocolate babies and a home on the nice side of town.

I wish I could have slapped the 16 year old me just about now.

When we were kids, our parents told us that we would have to "wait" for everything. Wait for the cookies to get out of the oven, wait for our new toy, wait for a car, etc. etc. etc. Now that I'm a grown woman, I can't help but ask.... when's the wait over?

I can't help but feel like I'm still waiting. Trains, cars, bikes, and hell even that guy in the wheelchair screeches past as I sit on a dusty bench wondering when my stop would be next.  My feelings tend to stay in constant flux between anger, sadness, bitterness. We've all seen the kid on the playground with a stiff upper lipping yelling, "When's my turn?!?!" It's not attractive for a pint sized adult and its especially unbecoming of a 26 year old kid.

Waiter. Waiting. Weight. Wait. Heavy words. All indicate carrying some kind of load. Just "wait and see". "Oh you just wait until I get my hands on you." Or "I just can't wait." Who the hell decided it would be a good idea to call a reception space a "waiting area." Wouldn't it be more attractive to call it something else... anything else?

When's the wait over?

P. Manolos

Today's Obsession

I dare you to try to resist this little guy. He's curled up next to me on the couch. Love of my life, my furry little child. I swear, I would nurse him if I could... ok maybe I've gone a little too far on that one.

P. Manolos

It's not the dog in the fight....

It's the fight in the dog.

Been busy. Fighting off sales like mad.

My mom has been staying with me for a few days. I can't say there hasn't been any friction, after all, I've been living by myself for almost 10 years. Technically 8, but close enough. 

My shoes were on fire at CVS this week. The giftcard deal was way too good to pass up. $30.00 spent on select items = $10.00 gift card back. Even without coupons, this can be a great deal. Add an $8.00/2 Covergirl coupon AND a B1G1 50% off sale on Covergirl. Magic. I ended up paying $0 OOP and receiving a $10.00 gift card each time. Rinse and repeat about 3x to make the easiest $30.00 I've ever made in my entire life.

My Mom asked me, Why do you go shopping so much? 

Well.... if someone said "Come to my store, and I'll pay you $30.00 to buy what you need,"  how could you say "No.. I'd rather not."


Well, I'm off to work. One of the benefits of getting up at 5AM is that my work day is over at 3:30PM. Just in time for a good deal.

P. Manolos

Sometimes Life Just Takes Over

It's been three weeks.


I've been working like a crazy woman, going from one assignment to the next. Don't even let me get started on my own anxiety about the bar exam results on Friday. Either way, I don't really want to talk to anyone. Getting your bar exam results is such a public event (it's posted online) but it is at the same time one of the most private moments you will have in your entire life. If you've dreamed of becoming an attorney like so many of the bar exam takers, Friday is a day of reckoning.

I've been at my usual couponing game. Hunt, gather, clip, rinse, and repeat. I laugh every time I hear someone talk about coupons are a waste of time. This assertion is especially laughable when you take into consideration the predictions that staples in our food supply will skyrocket in price in the near future.  Articles such as this one HERE and HERE both show without a doubt that I wasn't a crazy lady for buying 13 jars of peanut butter. I've already used three of them in the last month.

So who's laughing now?

Me. A co-worker told me about a sale on peanut butter, apparently it was price at 2/$4.00. Well, for a non-couponer that's a great price. For someone who loves coupons, that is an awesome price when combined with a coupon. If it's the right coupon, I could very well get the peanut butter for 0.50 a jar.


Walmart Couponin'

Did I mention I LOATHE Wal-Mart?

Why, hello there!  I know, I know, I haven't posted in forever, but I wanted to check in to let you know about my strong distaste for all things Walmart.

When Walmart first opened in my neighborhood (I believe I was in high school) it was a pretty exciting event. My parents went gaga for Walmart and my Dad to this day goes out for a nightly Walmart trip. You would think this inconvenience would make him create a list of things he needs and stick to it, but alas this is not what my parents do. I think he does this on purpose just so he can have an excuse to get out of the house work.

Now that I coupon, I can tell you that I hate Walmart.  For non-couponers, Walmart often has better prices than other stores. They can go into the store rest assured that the prices are much lower than anyone else in town.

Couponers, however, hate Walmart for one reason and one reason only: the cashiers. I swear, if you have a pulse you can get a job there. Killed a few people? No problem, just be sure to sign the bottom line so we know who to pay at the end of the week. The problem with Walmart is their severe inability to train their employees. The turnover in the place must be so high that it's difficult to get any one person who actually knows what the hell is going on.  So instead of asking questions and getting the proper training, they just make stuff up.

I'm dead serious. I have had experiences in the past where a cashier told me something so stupid I thought I would have to jump over the register, grab my coupons and run out of the store (ex. a Kroger cashier told me they don't double coupons anymore, even though a sign at the entrance says "double up to 99 cents"). Well, that's what happens at Walmart.

Walmart has great policies, if you can take advantage of them. For one, if you can price match to any other store sales ad without having the ad with you.  Most of the cashiers take offense to the policy set by highly paid, business savvy professionals have asked them to implement. So be sure to take the ad, because you will get push back either way.  Just a few days ago I pulled out my ad and even before I could finish my sentence the cashier said "Oh no you won't!!". She eventually back peddled when she realized she made a mistake, but the message she gave was clear. You're kind aren't welcome in my store.

Overages. Walmart also has a great policy where if you end up redeeming a coupon that is worth more than the value of the item, then they will give you the money back in cash. Example, the hot deal right now is on Schick disposable razors. There was a $6.00/2 disposable razor coupon available online. The razors are only $1.97 each, so that means you get $2.09 back for every two packs you purchase.

No way in hell was I able to find those razors. After searching high and low, every Walmart within a 10 minute radius of my house was sold out.

So the moral of today's story? Be sure to bring your ad and coupon policy with you when you shop at Walmart. Chances are good that you will end up with a clueless cashier.

P. Manolos

Free Butter and BBQ sauce

Well, it's been awhile since my last post. Working two jobs and taking care of a very unhappy minpin has kept me from getting back to you about my many adventures in stockpiling.

I made a big mistake a few days ago at CVS. I bought four packages of toilet paper instead of three. They have a great deal where you buy $25.00 worth of select items and you'll get $10.00 back. Toilet paper is always a difficult thing to save on, so I definitely planned to capitalize on the sale.

A thing to note about rain checks. After a sale is over, the manager or cashier has to manually enter the price of the item into the computer. They'll also have to manually enter the amount of coupons you're using into the computer. So you can imagine my chagrin when I discovered that the cashier didn't enter the correct amount off for the Cinnamon butter. The conversation went like this:

Me: I'm not that great at math, so what's 8 x $1.50?

Cashier: ::smiles:: types in $6.00 into the register and leaves ( I was at the self checkout).

Me: Umm, excuse me I believe 8 x $1.50 = $12.00..

Cashier: ::frowns, gives dirty look:: and enters another $6.00 off into the computer.

My friend and I had some major issues last night. She didn't get her $3.00 catalina and I found out as soon as I got home that the idiot cashier didn't enter the correct amount for the BBQ sauce either.

Lesson of the day? ALWAYS check your receipt before you go to the store. I can't tell you how often I'll go to the store and end up losing out on some hard earned $$ because a sloppy cashier didn't give me a discount. Don't feel intimidated by the cashiers, I can't emphasize to you enough that 9 times out of 10, you probably know a lot more about the coupon policy than the cashiers themselves.

P. Manolos

No Escape

I got angry at the dog today. I yelled at him and told him to get in his crate. I don't think he's ever seen me so angry. After cooling off, I wanted to give him a hug.

No. such. luck.

He wouldn't budge from his cage.

I've learned my lesson- never get mad at a dog who loves you and won't leave home even with the backyard gate open for a week. It's not worth it and I can't bear the thought that one day he could walk out the door.

There's no such thing as bad dogs. Just bad owners.

P. Manolos

Coupons 101: Coupon Fraud

At approximately 3AM this morning, I thought about coupon fraud while I was vomiting over my toilet. You know, praying to the porcelain gods.  Tossing my cookies.  Actually, my first thought was what the hell was I thinking when I decided eating two boxes of Totino's pizza rolls (they're on sale right now for 60 cents each w/a coupon at Giant Eagle so I bought two today). Being the greedy, twenty-six year old I am, I ate both boxes in the course of one hour. This happened before I started watching Keeping up with the Kardashians and after I read online that Totino's pizza rolls contain a ton of trans fat.  At first I was full, then I turned green, and then unlike my alarm clock this morning, my stomach woke me up to play a rousing game of toss the rolls back into the toilet. What the hell possessed me to eat both boxes in the first place? More importantly, why the hell did I let myself eat them all in one sitting? Not only did I get violently ill, I found myself experiencing an epiphany good enough to share with all of you. 

Too much of a good thing, is definitely bad.

Yes, there are some exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, too much of a good thing is definitely bad. That's where coupon fraud comes in. Part of my disgust with Extreme Couponing are the acts of coupon fraud shown on national TV. Coupon fraud, in my opinion, happens when people want to get more than their fair share and take advantage of the flawed system to do so. They are taking advantage of a good thing (coupons) to achieve bad results for everyone else. Let me explain some basics before we get into walk down the techie brick road known as coupon fraud.  

Thanks to for the pic, I couldn't find one on google...
Anatomy of a Coupon:

Small black print- These are the terms of the agreement between you and the manufacturer. You, the store, and the manufacturer are entering into a contract. You promise to buy the right product, the manufacturer promises to give you a discount and the store is promised by the manufacturer to get the face value of the coupon AND 8 cents extra for shipping costs. Limit 1 coupon per transaction means that you can only use one of their coupons in a transaction. So if you want to buy two boxes of Similac, you'll need to split your transactions. 

Bar Code- This is what the cashier uses to scan into the computer. The computer contains the store inventory and matches the coupon with what you've got in your cart, as well as letting the store keep track of coupon redemption. The barcode on the left is an old-style traditional barcode all of us should be used to, the other barcode is a much more sophisticated version stores are just beginning to use. Not to get too techie, but this barcode gives much more information than its predecessor. Try to buy Similac regular with this and that computer is going to beep at ya. Why? Because it's the wrong product. 

Bar Code Numbers- These numbers correlate to the product in the picture. If something is wrong with the scanner, the cashier is able to type in the numbers. 

Ok, so here's where the fraud comes in. Sophisticated couponers are able to tell from the bar code numbers whether or not a coupon will double. I can't help but scratch by head when manufacturers write "do not double", but then use a sequence that the computer will automatically double anyways. 
Typically, bar code numbers starting with a "5" will double.  I'm not going to go any further on this issue.

Here is where the fraud comes in. To get more than their fair share, many couponers will use the wrong coupon for the wrong product. How is this so? Let's go back to the Similac example. There's Similac advanced and Similac regular (I'm taking a wild guess, I have no children so I wouldn't know for sure). With all manufacturer product lines, the regular product tends to be cheaper than the "new and improved" or advanced product. So what many unscrupulous individuals will do is use the coupon for the advanced product to purchase the regular product. This often happens when a sale+ bad coupon= free.  The computer might not beep because the product code is a reference to a family of the manufacturer's product (family in this sense means the code is similar enough to other product numbers in the manufacturer's line that it won't beep). For the most part, the computer will beep and often the poor, unsophisticated cashier will just push it through at the insistence of an irate customer. They only glance to see that the picture kind of looks like the product and to read the numbers to push the coupon through. 

I hear what you're saying, "So what's the big deal right? Who cares if someone uses the wrong coupon!" Everyone should care. Even those who don't use coupons should care because when someone commits coupon fraud,  everyone loses. 

The store loses because they can't get reimbursed for a product they didn't sell. They have to show proof to the manufacturer that they sold the product within the guidelines set by the coupon. When you have someone who purchases 100 bottles of detergent for free using a bad coupon, that's a lot of money the poor store isn't going to see. 

Consumers lose because the store will recoup the cost from your wallet. They'll raise prices or no longer offer the promotional deal because someone decided to screw over the system. Couponers definitely lose because the boss will yell at the cashiers and the cashiers will be more reluctant to take coupons. Manufacturers get pissed and they'll stop issuing coupons for the product or they will reduce the value of the coupon and set up draconian limitations (ex. P&G's "Like four coupons per shopping trip"). 

People have even gone to jail for coupon fraud: 

So what can you do to prevent coupon fraud? Read your coupon carefully. Don't use expired coupons or coupons for the wrong product. Call others out on fraudulent behavior. If you see someone ahead of you in line using coupons incorrectly, get the balls to go up to the cashier and tell her that she's using the coupons incorrectly. The cashier will thank you for your honesty, but the customer will probably want to fight you. Well, they probably won't because in my opinion coupon frauders are whimps. 

P. Manolos

My Stock Up List- Top 5

Hi.... I'm P. Manolos and I don't practice what I preach..

Well, not all the time anyways. 99% of the time, I do exactly what I say I'm going to do.... Remember how I told everyone to have a list of stock up items organized by aisle, shelf price, sale price, and rock bottom price?

I haven't done it (shields face from flying rotten tomatoes). I've been so wrapped up in getting caught up with my clipping (the stack doesn't look so bad right now, thank GOD it's a holiday weekend). So here's some of my top 5 stock up items with prices.  (BTW- No coupons in the paper this Sunday, it's a holiday weekend, so take the time to have fun with the fam!)

Try to make your own stock up list and keep it with you at all times. It will help you save tons of money, not to mention it will keep you busy for a few hours if you've got time to kill. You should come up with more than five, but I'm tired and it's late so I'm only sharing 5 today.

P. Manolos' Top 5 Stock Up Items w/Prices

1. Laundry Detergent- Does anyone else besides me think it's creepy that I really really love laundry detergent. I feel so barren only having a dozen bottles in the stock closet. I'm waiting with abated breath for a sale on Wisk in the next four weeks. I think the All coupon that was just released stinks ($1.00 off wth?) so I'm gunning for a good sale on Wisk, hopefully snagging some 28+ loads at $1.50 each.

Let's chat about brand loyalty for a second while we're on the subject of laundry detergent. I've got something else to tell you, but I feel like this will feel as good as when you first found out Santa Clause wasn't real. You know all those laundry detergents? You know how everyone has their "favorite" detergent. Well, sit back in your chair because this will rock your world.

It's ALL THE FREAKIN SAME. Yup. EXACTLY THE SAME. Manufacturers don't want you to know this. They love it when people develop an affinity for a brand because then they can overcharge you and you'll just fall for it because it's your favorite brand. Do you know who makes Wisk? What about All detergent? Ummm the same damn company that's who. If you go on All's Facebook page, guess what? They freakin LIKE Wisk.  Different fragrance... yes, but that's all your paying for and frankly I don't think it's worth it.

Shelf: $6.99/ Sale: 3.99 /Stock Up Price: $1.50 (Remember, all of the stock up prices factor in coupon use.)

2. Feminine Products- Um.. who the hell wants to pay full price for this stuff? I can always get pads on clearance or combine coupons with the target $5.00 gift card deal and they're always almost free.

Shelf: around $5.00/ Sale $2.00/ Stock Up Price = Free up or up to 50 cents

3. Deodorant- Deodorant is always almost free. My supply closet upstairs is fully stocked with deodorant. I don't really have a preference yet, I just want to smell good.

Shelf: $3.50/ Sale: $1.19/ Stock Up Price = Free or up to 50 cents

4. Toothpaste- Remember that rule where I told you don't be brand loyal because good deals come in all shapes, sizes, and manufacturers? Well... I really, really love Colgate Total. My mouth feels so clean and happy after I brush with the stuff. My dentist always passes out travel size Colgate Total toothpaste every time I go in for a visit. It's always on sale. That being said, toothpaste is ALWAYS FREE. If you are out of toothpaste, come by because I have 50 tubes of toothpaste in my closet.

Shelf: $3.00/ Sale $1.00/Stock Up Price = Free or up to 50 cents

5. Floss & Toothbrushes- The manual toothbrushes are always free. Floss by Reach is always free with a coupon.

Shelf: $1.75/Sale $1.00/Stock Up Price = Free or up to 50 cents

Well, I'm off to bed. I had a long day at work and then spent the rest of my day babysitting two rambunctious nieces.  Ahh, sweet exhaustion.

P. Manolos 

My Dirty Little Secret...

Cleaned up at  Giant Eagle $19.50 baby!
I love cleaning supplies. That being said, my house is a damn shame. Haven't cleaned up since my last post where I woke up in the middle of the night and scrubbed the entire kitchen from top to bottom. My cleaning supply closet looks pristine. Nothing has been touched since I put stuff in there.

Hoarding issue came up a second time for me this week. A friend of mine mentioned that my habits can be perceived to the outside world as hoarding. I mean, who needs six bottles of cleaning liquid (like the umm... ones in the pic..)

It's how I save money (and hopefully you will too). Like I said in a previous post, every time I go into my supply closet to use something, I write down how much it would cost me if I ran out and bought the item at full price. I won't purchase any cleaning liquid until mid 2012. If I'm tempted to do so, I just invite all of my friends over for a little shopping in the supply closet. They take away my stuff I don't want or can't use, and I get the satisfaction of helping someone I care about.

What's better than helping out a friend? Perhaps me getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

Cleanin' Up Shop,

P. Manolos

Oh Billy

Billy's leaving today (don't know where he's going).Holds his head in disgrace (he can't escape the truth).He knows the price that he's paid.He admits that it's too late to admit that he's afraid.Tomorrow comes. Sorrow becomes his soul mate.The damage is done. The prodigal son is too late.Old doors are closed but he's always open,To relive time in his mind.Oh Billy
Billy- James Blunt

Jesus. You know the sheet has hit the fan when you've got James Blunt replaying in your mind. (I got that "sheet" trick from this hilarious commercial about energy snacks that take the form of a sheet. Genius, albeit vulgar marketing). Does that man ever make a good feelin' happy song? Errr. Correct that, does that man make a decent good feelin' happy song? Is it asking too much for the man who offs himself on MTV video to sing something about some damn smiles, a nice round bodied beer and some good times at the ole' pub with the boys lookin' for girls? (Major stinkers the last few songs he's released, he really should stick to moanin' and groanin' about love and misery) 

LOL. That last sentence fell flat for me too. Something about this song is sticking with me these days. It's so insanely meaningful. Take the time to really listen to the song the next time you are bored, self-indulgent, and need some time to kill. The basic premise of the song is that Billy is a worthless cheating bastard and he was getting away with it for awhile. It's all fun in games until your roosters come to nest and you end up being immortalize by a British crooner whose claim to fame is drownin' himself head first into the ocean over a fish (LOL "fish" is a slang term for well.... starts with a "b" and ends with an "itch"). 

Life meanders on. I too, feel like the worthless cheating bastard Billy by spending so much time in school learning about absolutely nothing only to get unleashed to a world that yawns at the past three years of my rigorous turmoil.  I still can't find the box on the employment application that says, "Have you spent any time in a proverbial wasteland of impractical learning and social purgatory?". Nope, no such credit for that time served exists my friends. 

Time now? 5:12AM. This. Has. Got. To. Stop. I only laid my head down about four hours ago before it popped up for air with Oh Billy blaring in the mental background. Stop this ride into the abyss of absolute acrimony and disgust, I really do want to get off this time. The dog is snoring on the couch. I can't imagine how fed up he is with his owner's absolute lack of a proper sleeping schedule. How the hell is a proper dog supposed to nap 16 hours a day with a human clanking on the computer blaring Brit Brit soft rock all day? Min Pinnin' ain't easy I guess. (Don't run for the door, I already checked, it's LOCKED.) 

Let me preface all of my mental vomit by saying good things have happened in the past few days. I've got a temporary job in the works and that means I'm headed in the right direction. I had a chance to spend time with friends and do a little casual reading, something I haven't done since I started law school three years ago. Nothing but decadent reading to be completely honest with you. No more proper learning. Books on proper mise en place for pastry chefs, Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and of course, fashion magazines.

You would think I would enjoy a break from the hustle and bustle after busting my ass for three years. Nope. Not at all. Without something meaningful and compensated to do, I am at my wits end. Thankfully, someone has decided to put me out of my misery and give me something to do for the next few months.

Phew is the word. Can't tell you how relieved I am to have a chance to grind at work again.Can't you tell by the way I'm sleeping oohh so peacefully while my little midget sick-it is snoring away. (Zimba snores and it drives me insane dammit!!!) Now if only I could get back to sleep.

Oh Billy,

P. Manolos

2AM Thoughts

I can't sleep.

It's 2AM... well, 2:46AM if you want to be exact. I've mopped the kitchen, wiped down the walls, and even cleaned that spot under the Kitchen Aid mixer. I mean, who the hell is going to walk into my house at 3AM to lift up a five pound mixer to find a few old spices and dried up flour under the motor? And why would I even be friends with such a shitty individual who would subject a friend's house to such a rigorous inspection?

Me I suppose.

Today was rough, to say the least. When you have as much time as I do to think about life, you tend to micro-analyze everything. Like the spot under my mixer, I tend to give things a much closer look when I'm not occupied with work, school, or the dog. Speaking of the dog, I can't help but envy his ability to sleep 16 hours a day at a clip without coming up for air. Usually when I leave him in his crate upstairs he pitches a huge bitch fit to get out (that's if I haven't bribed him with a treat. He's a shrewd animal...).

Well, tonight as I scrub some shit out from under the MIXER, I thought about commitments. Not relationship commitments per say, just commitments in general. I just finished school. It was a three-year commitment where I spent countless nights reading over atom-sized texts and vomiting over test scores.

I made this commitment in lieu of a future, much greater commitment made by some benevolent employer out there to keep me with a roof over my head and a full fridge. Employment is just as much as a commitment as any other relationship. Unlike your job at the McDonald's across the street, a commitment to a new law grad is a steep investment. You see, each hour you work at McDonalds, there's a definite number of profit & output. They make money off of you and can count precisely from penny to penny how much money you will make them at any given hour for any given week.

Committing to a young law grad, wet behind the ears and eager to learn how exactly to be a lawyer is a much more costly matter. That employer can count every single penny they are going to lose each year training you. For the first three years of practice, you my friend, are a big waste of money. The only reason why they engage in this money blowing scheme year after year, with eager 2Ls lined up with resumes in hand, is the hope that they will hit billable gold when you finally get your law legs about ya. Yup. It's a really, really, really, stupid practice. Firms, still shaky from the recent economy, persist in a practice of Russian Roulette in hopes to keep up with the Jones or at least keep up the appearance of having money to blow.

Even though this scheme is foolish, it still requires one essential, rational element: commitment. That's the problem I've encountered the past few months. Commitment. Finding someone who will commit their client's hard earned money into training me into becoming a successful, well-honed litigation machine. A lawyer is only as good as their reputation and their pedigree, so you can imagine how many of us unemployed law grads take it personally when we leave the hallowed halls of the law school to find ourselves without anyone willing to make a commitment to them.

The building blocks of human society are glued together by commitment. Our parents, whether it was willingly or forced, made a commitment when we were popped out of the womb. We commit to a set of friends, our school of choice, and most importantly, we make a commitment to who we decide to become when we have the chance to mold our own destinies.  I beg to differ with Maslow when he failed to add commitment to his hierarchy of human needs. Perhaps he meant to cover the subject under the broad category of "love." Blah.  Anyways... We make  commitments in life because we find value in taking our time and effort required to fulfill the terms of a commitment. Value is something we see as beneficial and worth any sacrifice we have to make to get the end result. We are constantly making decisions each day about whether or not something is of value.

Men understand value. I marvel at my friends who wonder why the hell their significant other hasn't proposed and the girl next door gets a ring in less than two second flat. Unlike women, men propose because two events have simultaneously converged: financial stability and timing. Don't have any allusions about being "the one" and being so in love. Our country has a divorce rate of well over 60 percent, so that's a huge bunch of you-know-what that I will not reach for a pair of boots to step in.

Nope. A man decides to propose when he is both financially ready and the timing is right. They've gotten their wild oats sown, they've had a few too many a few too many times, and frankly they find themselves becoming an increasingly odd site among their matched friends. That's when whoever they are dating at the time gets hitched. It's not magic. There's no sudden realization that this person is "the one". This person is actually like a winning lottery ticket- you got them at the right time and at the right place. Marriage is a much more rational commitment for a man.

So that's why I find myself at 2AM writing this ridiculously long blog post. I feel as if I have no value. The rejection letters pile up and I watch as my fills up with updates from happy, committed couples. So and so at such and such. Yadda Yadda works at boogy bot bot. (Well, that sounded stupid. Just go with me, ok?) Committed. Each morning I wake up, I think to myself what is it about me that keeps something from making such a leap of faith and sending out the "Congratulations" letter. What is the value that so many others seem to find in other people that I lack?

Such meanderings of the mind, taken at 2AM, leave you with a very naked view of who you are. I am up at night because this feeling of being an absolute piece of mediocrity isn't letting me rest. Not good, not bad, just "mehhhhhhh." Do you remember the Bible passage where God talks about his disdain for lukewarm water? Hell, who on earth DOES like lukewarm water? Hot water is good for tea, coffee, and hot cocoa. All fantastic things in my book. Cold water is great on a hot, summer day. Lemonade and Kool-Aid are just two applications that come to my mind.

But lukewarm water? God says he'll spit you out in a minute. Well God, you made your point and I feel like you just hocked a lugie known as my life out onto the sizzling 110 degree pavement. (Yes, I took the time to look up whether I spelled "lugie" right.)

Is my mediocrity what stops me from gaining a foothold in life? I'm a wonderful volunteer, but not asked to work full-time. I'm loved, but after the good times and the bad, I'm still not valuable enough for anything deeper. I'm no soulmate. Just an old shoe. An old shoe who can't seem to find someone who thinks I fit. Fit for duty. Fit for something more than just a casual rendezvous from the clearance rack. Not even the Nordstrom clearance rack, you know where they mark down $1,000.00 shoes to $500.00? Just $499.00 less and I could actually afford to take the shoe home. Maybe the rack at JCPenny. Ouch. Even typing that hurt.

I'm tested on a daily basis only to find myself at an 89.

Not a solid B. But definitely not an A.

P. Manolos

Coupons 101: Buying in Bulk

I remember a jingle someone used to sing when I was a kid. Maybe it was a commercial, maybe it was some kind of cartoon. It kind of went like this, "PEANUT PEANUT BUTTA AND JELLLLYYYY!!" I'm not a bad singer. But that's a bad song. Forgive me for that slip up.

Well, no jelly here, but who knows what the future holds ;-)

Everything in the pic was free. I wanted more of the toothbrushes, but unfortunately Kroger still has that damn 3 coupon limit. Bastards. There was a free Oikos yogurt coupon in the paper (check out the Parade magazine from last Sunday) so I was able to snag two of the yogurts at no cost.  FULL DISCLOSURE: I did order additional coupons from a clipping service. If I factor into the cost the coupons I ordered from a clipping service, I spent $5.00 for everything in the photo. Yes, the clipping service was an extra cost, but if I had paid full price for everything, I would have had to fork over $60.00. You do the math. Sixty bucks is a lot more than $5.00 the last time I was enrolled in 3rd grade.

All of this peanut butter seems insane, doesn't it? I mean, who needs 12 jars of peanut butter, right? Well my friend, that brings us to today's lesson: ALWAYS buy in Bulk. If it's a crazy low price, get the stuff while the gettin' is good. Screw the Satan that is Sam's Club. If you coupon correctly, you can kiss your $50.00/year membership goodbye and buy in bulk at the grocery store for a fraction of the warehouse cost. (Ok... don't kiss it goodbye if you are as addicted to the Sam's club pizza as I am. These hips don't lie... )

If you are truly serious about saving money, each of you should take the time to write a Top 10 list of items that you cannot live without. This is pretty easy to do, the next time you are at the grocery store write down the price of all of the essential items and post it on your refrigerator. Write down three different prices:

  1. Shelf Price- Price of the item when it's not on sale
  2. Sale Price- Price of the item when it's usually on sale
  3. Stock Up Price- Rock Bottom Price of the Item (ex. peanut butter at $1.50 each). You will want to use your coupons at this time to get the lowest price possible. If it's easier for you, this price can reflect the cost after using a coupon.
Let's use the peanut butter for illustration's sake. My boyfriend loves peanut butter. I'm not saying he is a casual lover of da nutty butter. (I'm a rapper, didn't you know?) He will sit with a spoon in hand and eat peanut butter straight from the jar. For breakfast. For lunch. For dinner. For a late night snack. Do you understand the amount of peanut butter one goes through when it makes up its own food group?

I too, love peanut butter.   I'll have a PB&J every once in a while and I love to bake peanut butter cookies. That being said, I probably don't go through as many jars as my boyfriend. Here's the math again:
  1. Shelf Price- $3.99 (This is an estimate, I haven't the slightest clue how much this peanut butter usually costs because it's a brand new item. Planters just came out with its own peanut butter.)
  2. Sale Price- Last week, Giant Eagle had it on sale 2 for $3.00 or $1.50 each.
  3. Stock Up Price- Free or up to 50 cents/jar

This week, the peanut butter was on sale 2 for $3.00. I had twelve 75/1 coupons. At my Giant Eagle, they will double any coupon 0.99 cents and under. Therefore, a 75 cents off coupon is really worth = $1.50. That means all of the peanut butter was absolutely free.  This will happen a lot when a manufacturer comes out with a new item. They want consumers to try it and become addicted to it, so they'll give the store an incentive to sell it at a low price (the average consumer jumps at this) and then they will release a coupon as well (couponers like us should jump at this). Stacking both the sale price and the coupon = Peanut Butter nirvana.

I bought twelve jars of peanut butter that have very, very long expiration dates (July 2012). That means I will not buy a jar of peanut butter until I am completely out of peanut butter OR if I can get peanut butter for absolutely free again.

Let's keep going with the peanut butter illustration. Still not convinced buying in bulk isn't a good idea? Try this trick. Buy something cheap in bulk when the stock up price for that item is available.  Each time you use a jar of peanut butter and reach into the cabinet to use another jar, write down how much you would have to spend if you had to run to the store that very same day and buy the peanut butter at full price. At the end of a month or two, add up the amount of money you would have spent if you didn't buy that item in bulk. You'll quickly see that if my peanut butter monster eats 1 jar of peanut butter a week, and I had to run out and buy 4 jars per month at $3.99 each, that would = $15.96.

Buying in Bulk FAQ:

Question... uhhhh... isn't it all going to expire before you can use it? Answer: Only buy what you can use. If you can't use it, then donate the item to the local food bank. This is a great way to give to a charitable cause without breaking your own finances. Ask friends and family if they need anything from your stockpile and invite them over to do a little shopping. 

Question... ummm.. isn't this like HOARDING or something? Answer: No. My definition of hoarding is when someone buys a ton of stuff they can't use before they expire. I love being able to donate to the local food bank and give away some of my free stuff as a gift bag for friends & family. The average consumer spends a ton of money on many of these items.  I can't tell you how excited my friends get when I serve up a bag of goodies that would usually cost them $50 or more. Random acts of generosity= good Karma! 

So, remember to bulk up when the price is right. You'll look strange to your friends, but your wallet will thank you!

P. Manolos

Putting Things Into Perspective

Around $55.00 for all the groceries in the pic. About three boxes of brownies, five bottles of Honest Tea, paper towels, four bottles of Axe shower gel, four cans of Chef Boyardee, three bottles of handsoap, two bags of salad, four loaves of bread, four boxes of popcorn, six bags of M&Ms and almost ten pounds of meat. The meat really pushed my out of pocket (OOP) costs, but I couldn't resist all of the mark downs, not to mention the fact that this will probably last an entire month..... or two...

MMMM. Beef, it's what's for dinner!

Yep. I paid $55.00 for everything in this picture. I entitled this entry "Putting Things into Perspective" because I want the confusion surrounding the show Extreme Couponing. I hate the show, but like any catastrophic car wreck, I've slowed down a few times to take a look at it. The show has encouraged stores to tighten up their coupon redemption policies and has given me a lot of grief at the register. Every time I pull out my binder in a store or take my coupons out of my envelope at Target, I get a comment about being an "Extreme Couponer." I usually smile and say that I'm not as good as the folks on TV, but after someone says it to you for the umpteenth time, you tend to get a little peeved. It's especially unnerving when I'm going through the checkout line and everyone is watching me to see how much money I've saved. Sometimes I do work a little magic and end up saving 90%.

However, 90% of the time, when I go shopping, I expect to save around 50-65%. Yup. I'm not walking out of the store without paying, I usually just save a lot more than the average person. I'm pretty proud of my 50 dollar haul. I was completely out of protein and I have a thing for watching TV with a bowl of popcorn.

Listen people. Extreme Couponing show is unrealistic (not to mention some of the participants are engaging in illegal coupon redemption but that's another blog post for another day). Don't feel disheartened when you gather up all of your coupons and find yourself only (and I say "only" with a smile on my face) saving 50% off of your grocery bill. This is actually a normal amount of savings anyone should expect if they plan to purchase healthy foods for their families. Produce, meat and dairy are all items that are usually a full-price purchase.   Now that I've said that, let me tell you how you can save some of your hard earned money. 

How To Save On Meat & Produce:

How can you save money without drowning in free BBQ sauce and deodorant each month? Well first off, don't be afraid of discount meat. I chuckle when people pass off the Manager's special section to pay twice the price for the same quality of meat. Discount meat in the store isn't bad meat. The store isn't legally allowed to sell you any edible items that isn't safe for human consumption.  That's why recalls exist people, because the food was bad and they weren't supposed to sell it to you. Many times the food that gets recalled wasn't marked down in the first place. 

Stores mark down meat and produce because they need to sell them quickly before the "Sell by X" date.  My rule of thumb is to buy it and either cook it the same day or place it in the freezer. If you live alone, like myself, be sure to buy plenty of freezer bags and separate the meat into single serving portions. Use a sharpie to mark the date you bought the item as well as what exactly is in the bag. All meat begins to look the same after a few months in the freezer, so setting up a system of expiration dates and labels will help you keep track of what you need to eat quickly and what you can save for a rainy day. Meal planning is also crucial to saving money. The more last minute trips you make to the grocery store, the more often you'll find yourself spending over your grocery budget. 

Shop the sales ad. The best way to save money on both produce and meat is to take a look at the store's sales ad each week and buy what's on sale. The store takes a loss for the items shown on sale to draw you into the store and sucker you into making a lot of unplanned purchases. Well, you're smarter than that because you will make a list of all the sales items and stick to the list when you get to the store.

As for produce, always purchase produce in season!!!!  Do NOT buy strawberries in December or pomegranates in the middle of June.  Buying produce locally and in season will guarantee that you will save money because you aren't paying for the damn strawberries to get shipped from Florida to the Mid-West. If you can't live without strawberries in December, why not freeze the extra strawberries purchased in season? Be sure to take a look at your farmer's market and check out how much you can buy in bulk at a discount. You can also join a farmer's co-op and purchase items in bulk at a set price. Frozen vegetables are also a great choice and often come with fantastic coupons to boot. Studies have debunked the whole "fresh is better than frozen" theory, so don't feel bad about filling your freezer with a few Steamers from Krogers (check out this article here if you don't believe me: Frozen vegetables more nutritious than fresh, study says - New York Daily News)

Well, I'm off to plot another fantastic week of savings. Lots of laundry detergent and peanut butter this week. I'll post pics when I get a chance.  Damn Krogers and the 3 coupon limit.

P. Manolos

Recipe of the Day: No Fat Banana Bread

Found this online when I bought a bunch of bananas that were too ripe for eating, but perfect for baking.  I made this little baby and I had to throw it away to prevent myself from shoving the entire thing in my mouth:

MMMM. Sooo delicious and healthy to boot! Did I mention I failed miserably at keeping it healthy by putting a slab of cinnamon butter on top of each piece I inhaled? Sorry. A girl's gotta have a little fun in life.

Non-Fat Banana Bread

Banana Bread
3 (over) ripe bananas
1/2- 3/4 cups sugar (the less ripe the bananas, the more sugar you will need)
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour (I often replace one of the cups with whole wheat flour)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Mash the bananas in a large bowl and add the sugar. The sugar will help liquefy the mixture.  Whisk in the eggs, and then sift in the dry ingredients. Still until evenly combined. Bake in a greased a floured loaf pan at 325 for about 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to stand and cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Risin' to the Occasion,

P. Manolos

Coupons 101: Rebates are Real

Gotta love free $$$

I'm sure all of you have seen a rebate form before. Yet, how many of you actually buy a product and send in the form? No, I'm serious. How many of you actually take the time to find a stamp, keep your original receipt, and send the form in the mail the very next day after your purchase. I'm sure many of you are thinking that rebates are a waste of time. You have to buy a specific product and wait what seems like years until you get something in the mail. Well, after this post I'm hoping you will change your mind and try to rethink your grocery shopping strategy.

See the pic above? A few months ago, I bought a first aid kit. Nothing fancy, just a small kit for my car, my house, and one for my boyfriend's new apartment. Johnson & Johnson had a rebate deal where if you buy at least two of their first aid products, they will send you a free first aid kit bag. All you need to do is send in your original receipt with your purchases circled and the UPC from your first aid items. In approximately 6-8 weeks, they will send you a first aid bag. Yippee right?

Wrong. ((Shakes head solemnly)) The reason why you should be excited is because of the coupons included in the first aid bag or any sample you request from a store or manufacturer. Manufacturers want you to try their product and they want you to continue to use it. The whole point of coupons are to draw the customer to the store and to get them addicted to buying their product so they will buy it full price the next time they run out. Fortunately, you are much smarter than the manufacturer and you will NOT buy anything full price. You'll just buy 10 of them at the sale price WITH a coupon.

Manufacturers also want to reward you for your loyalty by giving you money back. I'm talking cold, hard, CASH. (well actually a debit card, but you know what I mean). A few weeks ago, I purchased Cascade Action Paks for my dishwasher. Before the good old days of couponing, I would go to Sam's Club ((cue horror music.. will explain hatred for Sam's Club another time)) to buy dishwasher detergent in bulk quantities. I would drop $6-8.00 for a product I can now, thanks to the manufacturer's rebate, get for free.  Just send in the original receipt and the UPC from the dishwasher detergent and they will send you back the money you spent on your purchase.  The FULL price of the purchase, regardless of whether or not you used coupons. So for a product I bought for $2.00 (I had a Target Q and a Manufacturer Q), I just got back $3.49! Yup. That's a profit of $1.49!! 

There are a ton of rebate opportunities out for many of the products you already by full price. Let's use the M&M movie ticket rebate as an example. 

1. M&M/Orville Redenbacher Movie Ticket Rebate- Every time you buy two packs of M&;M 9.9oz size and purchase the Orville Redenbacher popcorn, you get a free movie ticket voucher ($9.00 value). For example, last week CVS had a great deal on M&M and Orville Popcorn. Unfortunately, between work and being sick I wasn't able to completely take advantage of the deal. But for illustration's sake, here's the math:

Orville Redenbacher Pop-Up Bowls (my favorite!) 2/$4
M&M 9.9 oz bags of candy 2/$5 (not a great price, but not bad)

Buy 2 M&Ms (use $1.00/1 pretzel or $1.00/2 any flavor) and 1 Orville Redenbacher Pop-Up Bowls 

$5.00+$2.00 = $7.00
-2.00 (buy 2 pretzel bags flavors)
=$5.00 total (total comes out to $6.00 if you use the $1.00/2 coupon)
Send in the rebate form for the movie ticket, wait patiently and you'll get a $9.00 voucher in the mail

=$3.00 profit !

Popcorn has a pretty long shelf life and you can always freeze M&Ms. I love to bake cookies with the plain M&Ms so this is a great deal for me. There's always the option of donating excess goodies to the local food shelter. The limit is 4 movie tickets per household. It's a win-win situation for me. If you're interested in this deal, check it out at:

Be sure to buy the M&;Ms and popcorn when they're on sale. The M&M coupons should be available on eBay or from an online coupon clipping service. This deal is until 12/31/2011, so you can always wait for Orville Redenbacher to issue a popcorn coupon. Well, I'm going to get back to work (Fellowship work that is). I hope you're having a Funday this Sunday. (hahahaha? ok, well at least I'm laughing)

P. Manolos


Send Help.

I haven't posted in a few days because upon my return from working out of town, I came back to this mess. I can't even begin to describe to you how freakin' behind I am on my coupon clipping and organizing. The newspaper man from Hell of course ignored my vacation stop and dropped off three newspapers at my door. I'm sooo lucky that no one took my papers while I was gone. And on that thought, I'm very lucky no one broke into my freakin house. . Did I mention Krogers has hand soap on sale for  18 cents each?!?! You realize what to do when handsoap reaches 25 cents and below, right? You buy a crapload of it.

Unfortunately they're on to me. I ran over to the Kroghetto near my house (I live in a working class neighborhood, so it's a pretty shabby store) to buy 10 (out of the 20 I plan to buy) bottles of handsoap only to get stopped by the checkout girl and told they can only take 3 of my coupons. WTF. I admit, I kind of knew there was blood in the water when I read the fine print of the Kroger ad this week, which states (up to 3 coupons accepted) but I just didn't want to believe it.... and I hoped in the bottom of my little frugal heart they would let me slide.

NO SUCH LUCK. So I've made several trips back and forth to krogers to pick up hand soap. Stupid and insane really. Just think about it. If I wanted to walk in there and buy 100 freakin bottles full price, they wouldn't blink an eye. Yet, for the sake of keeping up stock, they limit me to 3 hand soaps because I'm using coupons. Sigh. I understand where they're coming from, nothing is more frusterating then going to the store to get a good deal only to find out they are out of stock. I pride myself in being a responsible couponer and making sure I only take my fair share.

Limits don't solve anything. People who want to abuse the system and get more than their fair share will think of other ways, much smarter ways, to get more product than the store's stupid 3 coupon limit policy.  Don't feel bad for the stores. The men and women who run the multi-national grocery chains are smart and know exactly what coupons come out when.

So what's my solution? I think stores should just keep track of how much of the loss leaders are bought in any given sale period and make sure they order more than enough for everyone. That's it. I also encourage any of the shelf clearers lurking around to make a special order with their store if they plan to wipe out the shelves. It's not hard and it's free to do.

Well, I better get back to working through the mess that is my home. Hope all is well on your side of the screen.

P. Manolos

Today's Obsession

Zimba's birthday video from a few months ago. Who can say no to such a cute little bundle of joy? I'm out of town right now and my Mom & Dad have Z until I can get back home. I miss him like crazy. I had no idea when I got him that I would feel so attached to the little bugger. And to think I seriously thought about naming him Satan.

Puppy Love,

P. Manolos

Errr... I need a Spankin' BAAADDD

Well, sort of. I'm thinking of all kinds of devious plans to clear out CVS and run with all of their merchandise. J/K. BTW- I went back to CVS and used one of my coupons for the Olive Oil. I'll be damned if I let that deal get out of my clutches without scoring some cheap olive oil. I'll probably go to another CVS to redeem one last coupon. Yes, I'll have 4 bottles of olive oil. But guess what? I'm not going to be the sucker going to the grocery store paying $7.99 for olive oil. Stockpiled until at least 2012. Thankfully, olive oil has a very long shelf life.

Insane deals are coming in the future. INSANE I SAY! If we were in the same room I would run laps and shake you with all my might.

Don't be like this guy. He's waiting for this week's CVS/Wags ad in the paper. TOO LATE BUDDY. 

What I love about drugstore deals is that they often have ad scans online two weeks before the sale even happens. Yes. I said it. TWO WEEKS. So you can plan ahead and purchase all of the coupons you need from your friendly clipping service weeks before the ad hits your front porch.

Soooo... drum roll please!! 
Get a $10 ECB when you buy an HP Inkjet Cartridge for $19.99, Limit 4.

*I must give credit to my favorite coupon websites, and for this info** WAIT UNTIL 8/21. I don't want you to run out tonight, buy a ton of ink cartridges, and then give me the finger when you don't get an ECB.  *

Umm.. if that didn't make you faint I don't think you understand me. One of the banes of my existence is the constant need to supply plenty of ink and paper. Lucky for me, I had coupons for Target brand paper last (and this month). It's just the damn ink that is so expensive. I always end up saving a lot more than what I spend on supplies, but it's always nice to catch a break.

So you know I'll be doing this deal 4x. Yup. I'll use ECBs to pay for each cartridge, so I won't have a lot of out of pocket costs, but I will be getting something very useful in return. Let's just hope this stock will last til Christmas. I'm still debating on whether I want to roll the ECBs into a new transaction or if I want to save them for a rainy day. Decisions, decisions!

Well, here's another plan, again I didn't think of this on my own, giving credit to my friends at, I plan to get a $10.00 gas card for less than $10.00. It's my weekly challenge. You know how old people like to do the NYtimes crossword puzzle on a daily basis? Yea, kind of like that except it's a weekly deal and I get a ton of stuff for free or with an added profit.

CVS Sunday 8/14/2011

4 Airwick @ $6.99 = $27.96
2 Glade Air fresheners @ 99c = $1.98
Total = $29.94

Then subtract your coupons
-4 Airwick $4/1 coupons
$5/25 CRT 
Pay 8.94 OOP. Get 10.00 gas card. 1.06 MM.

Hot isn't it? Can you feel the temperature in the room rise? Honestly, part of my obsession with this deal is that I HATE paying for gas and one gas card per week takes care of all of my gas needs for the week (can you tell from that phrase that I'm an unemployed law grad?)

P. Manolos

Preparation is Key

I hate being unprepared to go to the grocery store. I remember all of the damn money I would waste back in the day, before I was converted to the Church of Clipping. I would fork over $100.00 per shopping trip and think I've got a good deal on stuff.

So you can imagine how pissed I was when I forgot to use my coupons to get $2.00 off my purchase at CVS today. You see, CVS has a fantastic deal on olive oil this week. Not just any olive oil, but Filippo Berio. Brand name stuff. Good stuff.  Did I mention I'm completely out and I've been using Canola Oil as a substitute until I found a good deal. Here's how the deal would have worked out in an idea world:

Buy 2 Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Regular Price $8.99, Sale Price $3.99 (On sale until 8/12)

2 x $3.99
-$5.00 ECB earned on the Dove Hair product deal
-2 $1.00 off Filippio Berio coupons 
= 0.98 cents for TWO bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I know, insane huh? Due to my epic failure to reach into my purse and get out my $1.00 off coupons, I spent $2.00 more than I had to. Still a good deal for Olive Oil, but I would prefer to keep the extra $2.00 in my pocket.

If you're still starting out, remember that the best way to save money, even without using coupons, is to make a list of everything you plan to buy that day. Be sure to check out how much you plan to spend.  Write down what you need and how much everything on your list will cost you. Stores take advantage of many shoppers by luring them into the store to buy a loss leaders, only to end up with a ton of stuff you didn't plan to buy in your cart. (Loss leader = lingo for items a store takes a loss on selling to lure customers into their establishment).

That's how CVS got $2.00 more from me than I planned today. I'm away from home attempting to coupon in a strange place and I completely got frazzled at the Register and didn't think to myself I need to pull out the rest of the coupons in my purse. [ did I mention Brown Eyes was with me? He's a big distraction from my savings game, let me tell yeah ;) ].

I'm $2.00 poorer dammit,

P. Manolos

I'm seriously thinking about heading back down to CVS tomorrow to get my discount. I'm not kidding you, I probably will wake up before volunteer (I don't call it work b/c I don't get paid) and see if they'll let me get my damn 2 bucks back.

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