Some technical issues

10 Jul

Just a quick note to let you know that I had to rework some server issues, which may have affected some of my very early readers (hiya! Thanks for being here :) If you aren’t getting your email subscriptions or can’t see new posts, please try reloading Kosher on a Budget (http://kosheronabudget.com). You may need to sign up for the free feed and/or free email updates again once you refresh! Thanks for your patience with me as I figure this blogging thing out!

How to save $11 in 10 minutes

7 Jul

Awesome clearance deals aside, if you want to save serious money on your grocery bill, I really recommend clipping coupons. Now, most of us know about the coupon inserts that come in the Sunday paper. And a lot of us are familiar with printable coupons. But did you know that you can also get some really great coupons in the mail?

One way to get your postal carrier to deliver something other than bills is to send an email to the customer service department of your favorite company. Tell them how much you love their product and appreciate their good work. That’s it. 9 out of 10 times, you’ll get a lovely thank you letter in the mail not a week later, along with some high value coupons.

Every few months, I take 10 or 15 minutes to send off a couple of quick emails to my favorite organic, kosher food companies. I typically mention how much I appreciate them carrying a hechsher on their brand, since I know it’s an added cost. I might add how much my kids enjoy a particular product.

It really is that simple. Last week, I wrote 5 emails. This week, I have 14 coupons, worth over $11 in savings on healthy, tasty, kosher products that I cook with regularly in my kitchen!

Here’s the breakdown on what I received:

  • Clif Bars – They sent me a witty thank you letter, along with 2 $.50 coupons and 2 FREE PRODUCT coupons (worth $1.89 each – love it!) These will be great treats for long car rides, or to stock the diaper bag for those inopportune “Mom, I’m hungry!” moments. Or maybe I’ll just keep them for myself … mmm, carrot cake!
  • Mrs. Meyers - So far, no coupons. But I did get a very nice thank you email for my note, in which I waxed poetic about their amazing lemon verbena all purpose spray. (Usually I make my own cleaners for just pennies a bottle, but I picked up a super concentrated bottle for less than $3 at TJMaxx last winter and am in love with that smell!)
  • Arrowhead Mills – They sent me 6 $.55 coupons, which will be great when paired with a sale at Whole Foods. I love their great gluten-free mixes and organic quinoa!
  • Earth’s Best – They sent me 2 $.55 coupons, perfect for some teething biscuits or ABC cookies for my one year old. I usually buy Earth’s Best when it’s on sale at Whole Foods, but I’ve also seen good deals at Babies R Us.
  • Kashi — Oh, Kashi, how do I love thee? They emailed me two $1 off coupons, good for any Kashi product. Every few months, Target has ah-mazing Kashi deals, and I can stock up on cereal, crackers and cookies for less than $1/box. Guilt-free indulgence!

So, what do you think? Are you ready to try your  hand at getting free coupons in the mail? Check out this super duper comprehensive list of organic and natural food companies that mail free coupons. Not all of these brands carry a hechsher, but many of them do!

Have you ever written to a company to praise their product (or to complain about a less-than-ideal experience) and received an envelope full of coupons in return? If not, try it today. Let me know how it goes for you!

CVS 90% Off Clearance Deals 7-6-10

6 Jul

One of my favorite ways to keep our food and household budget to a minimum is by shopping at CVS. When I first started learning about the magic of CVS shopping, I was dubious. The CVS that I knew was way overpriced. The only things I’d ever buy there were prescriptions and sunscreen. I couldn’t imagine that people were really getting these amazing bargains there.

But after learning more about the “drugstore game,” I decided to give it a try. Armed with an OCD-style list, a calculator and a fistful of coupons, I walked into CVS. Twenty minutes later, I walked out with $25 worth of goodies for less than $8. I was hooked!

There is a whole science to shopping at CVS, involving sale prices, coupons and Extra Care Bucks (ECBs), but I won’t get into all of that here. There are plenty of great tutorials at other coupon blogs (here’s the one I used to get started), but today I wanted to show you what you can score when CVS drops the price to 90% clearance. Load up your cart with nearly free merchandise and walk out a winner – no coupons, no fuss.

I got everything pictured above for $1.07. One dollar and seven cents. Crazy, right?  I still can’t quite believe it and I’ve been doing this for two years now.

Admittedly, I had $10 in ECBs (like CVS-cash) that were going to expire, and normally I’d ‘roll’ those ECBs onto deals with other ECBs. But there wasn’t much I wanted in this week’s circular, so I figured I’d just get a few packages of toilet paper. Instead, I stumbled upon this awesome display of 90% off baby and kid clearance!

For less than half the cost of a gallon of milk, I got the following:

  • 2 vinyl tablecloths
  • 3 boxes of CVS sheer bandaids
  • 1 insulated, BPA-free straw sippy cup
  • 2 BPA-free Munchkin snack take-along containers
  • 1 package of size 4 CVS disposable diapers
  • 2 packages of Lansinoh Soothies (these are awesome for those early breastfeeding days)
  • 2 4-packs of CVS-brand children’s toothbrushes
  • 1 1st Years baby thermometer (we can never have too many thermometers, as they always seem to be lost when we need them the most)
  • 1 4-pack AA Duracell batteries (I earned $1 in ECBs for this purchase)
  • 6 Sobe Lifewaters (I still haven’t been able to confirm that these are kosher – I read that they are, but now I’m not sure. They were free with coupons, so I picked them up and will donate them to a non-kosher food pantry if I find out they aren’t kosher.)

The before-sale price on all these goodies was $105. I spent $1.07. What is that? Like a 99% savings rate?

While none of this is stuff that we need right.now, today’s haul illustrates one of the secrets to bargain grocery shopping: Buy ahead, when the prices are dirt cheap, so you don’t ever have to pay full price when you’re out of bandaids. By saving 80% or more on the “household items” category of my $500 – $600 monthly grocery budget, I free up lots of dollars to dedicate to the more expensive items on my list, such as free-range kosher beef and chalav yisrael shredded mozzarella.

So, what do you think? Do you want to jumpstart your baby/kid supply stockpile for next to nothing? I’d recommend heading on over to CVS today. Your mileage may vary in terms of prices and availability, but with 90% clearance, it’s definitely worth a look. Let me know what you find!

Stonyfield yogurts for $.28

6 Jul

In addition to keeping kosher, which can add about 30+% to the average food budget, I also do my best to buy organic when I can fit it into the budget. But since organics can add another 30-50% to the budget, it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. I focus on buying organic for the produce on the Dirty Dozen list, plus dairy and eggs if I can swing it.

This week, I was super excited to score a great deal on Stonyfield organic yogurts from Whole Foods. I was there picking up Earth Balance margarine (THE best pareve margarine in the world, but *not* budget friendly… still looking for a great coupon source on that one) and noticed that Stonyfield’s 6-oz. cups were on sale 2/$1. Did you know that Whole Foods offers a 10% discount if you buy a case of any item? On most products, a case = 12.

Now one key principle in saving money on your food budget is to combine sales with other offers with coupons. So, the cup of yogurt, which was normally priced at $1, was on sale for $.50. And then by buying 12 of them, I got it for $.45/cup. But it gets better! Because I had two coupons for $1 off 5 cups (which Stonyfield had sent me earlier in the week — stay tuned for details on how to get coupons in the mail for your favorite products), I ended up paying just over $.28 per cup. This is less than half what you’d pay at Costco and about a quarter of the regular Whole Foods price!

Want to do the same deal? You can! Head on over to Whole Foods, pick up a case of your favorite 6-oz cups and be sure to hand over four of the $.50/3 coupons you can print today from the Stonyfield website. You will need two computers to get all four coupons, as the site has a two-print maximum. The coupons expire 10 days after printing, so don’t wait too long to do this deal!

B’teyavon.

Kosher on a Budget is Born

5 Jul

Hello world! My name is Mara – nice to meet you! I am a mom, a wife, a freelance writer and a freak about saving money. Since moving to the greater Kansas City area two years ago, I have become borderline addicted to the world of coupon shopping. (And yes, I have the stockpile of shampoo, razors, diapers and toothpaste to prove it!)

But here’s the rub: Unlike most of the bargain bloggers I read, I am an Orthodox Jewish woman, raising a strictly kosher-keeping family of five. Which means, when it comes to grocery shopping, I’ve got a number of dietary restrictions that makes many of the sweetest deals off limits in our strictly hechshered home.

So, I skip the $.99/lb fresh chicken filet deals in favor of my $5/lb frozen, boneless, skinless breasts at Costco, and I order my meat overnight delivery from a grass-fed, free-range Glatt kosher rancher in Denver. I stock up on kosher cheese from our local co-op or at Costco (when they carry my beloved 5-lb bag of shredded mozzarella — for ‘only’ 4 times the cost of the non-kosher Kirkland brand.)

But when it comes to cereal, rice, pasta, produce, condiments, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, and, of course, toiletries, I fastidiously study the deals and make my dollars weep from frugality.

All together, I spend $400-500 per month on groceries and household goods, and put aside another $100 per month to cover quarterly orders of kosher meat and cheese. Each month, I allot our grocery budget taking into consideration which Shabbat meals my family will be hosting and what chagim I need to cook for.

Now, compared to the $45 a week that the Money Saving Mom spends, our budget must seem outrageous. But if you keep kosher, eat organic, or have other dietary limitations, you know how easy it is to blow a hundred dollars or more on just one Shabbat, let alone make that money stretch for four long weeks.

While reducing our grocery budget has been a painstakingly slow process, I have a learned some good lessons along the way. Lessons I am eager to share! In fact, after sheepishly showing a few close friends the stockpiles in my storage room, I kept hearing the same refrain: “Teach me how to do that!”

So I would send them to my favorite websites, but they kept coming back with more questions. Until finally my friend Amy said, “You need to start a blog for keeping kosher on a budget!” And so, Kosher on a Budget* was born.

I can’t promise I’ll post every day, and I don’t plan to reinvent the wheel when it comes to sharing CVS deals or Target specials. But I will tell you what I’m buying, where I’m getting the coupons, and what kosher brands I prefer to stockpile. I might talk a little bit about our family’s Dave-Ramsey-journey to debt-freedom and my still constant struggle to “live like no one else”. Heck, I may even share some frugal Shabbat menus or tell you how I plan to road trip on the cheap with my three kids later this summer.

I’d love to hear from you, too! Comments make the blog-go-round, so please don’t be shy! Tell me what brought you here, and if you’ve got a blog – about couponing or anything else under the sun – please feel free to spam me in the comments section!

*I know it’s been attempted before, but honestly, this seemingly ripe field is notably barren — at least by every imaginable Google search I have ever run.

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