I have raised four kids alone and with very little money at times. I have learned to stretch a dollar in so many ways. I actually have done a few ‘smart shopping’ seminars for a local womens centre and a teen mom school. This is the information I shared with them along with a lot of additional helpful tips I have picked up along the way since then.

BE AWARE
GET ORGANIZED, BE PREPARED
BE VOCAL, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
 as a consumer

BE AWARE
Keep your eyes open. Read the fine print. Get to know what are usual prices for the things you buy or are wanting to buy so you know if you get a good deal. Is it right for you? A deal is not a deal if it is not useful to you.
At some point in your life, take a marketing course, read a book, or something to learn the marketing tactics companies use to lure you into buying their products. This will help you avoid purchases you do not need and save you money!!
What is marketing?  Companies want you to buy their product. Advertising makes you want their product. They use catch phrases and play on your feelings. Also, the more annoying or stupid a commercial is, the more you will remember it.
Companies also use buying incentives: Coupons, contests, Club cards, refunds, free with purchase items, etc. Some are great deals, others may not be.

GET ORGANIZED, BE PREPARED
This can be as simple as keeping a pen and paper handy to take notes, make lists etc.  Watch flyers so you know what is a good price. Save Proofs of Purchase. Keep coupons and lists in one place ready to take with you. Establish simple routines to keep yourself prepared. When to find time? I often made use of quite time after kids are in bed to organize things for the next day. It only takes a few minutes then and will save you time and money in the future and be less stressful.  Sign up for and use club cards: HBC, Save On, Esso, Airmiles. If the club is free, why not? Watch for club cards for which you must pay first to enjoy savings. Will you use it enough to get your moneys worth from it? (these are at some clothing and movie stores). Check your receipts as you leave the store. Cashiers are only human. Make sure you have been charged appropriately.

TAKE ACTION, BE VOCAL!
Use coupons, check discount bins (Watch for dents, security seals). Write to companies, call them. Let them know what you think of products, service etc. You have a voice and you can make a difference. Companies appreciate feedback and sometimes will give you coupons or free products for your efforts. Your input may be used and changes may be made because of your input.  Talk to the manager or customer service when shopping etc. Know your rights, be polite. Let them help your solve problems and get your moneys worth of goods and services.

Double up on savings. Example: if you find something in the discount bin for which you have a coupon, and you know there is a refund out on that item. It will make buying that one item almost free.

Take advantage of ‘price matching’. Some stores offer price matching where you can take a competitors flyer and that store will match the price from another store. Good to use at the store which also offers points or where most of your other shopping is done. Saves time, money and gas to get around to different stores.

Shop for food in season to get best price, then freeze or can food for off season. Get to know local warehouse stores where you can find day old bread that can be frozen, or other staples you can stock up on inexpensively.

Shop for other things off season: Decorations, end of season sales from summer /winter items. Candy after holiday sales (CHOCOLATE!… had to throw that in!)
School supplies often go on sale in August and January. Sheets and towels go on sale in January (white sales). Get familiar for when these kinds of sales happen throughout the year.

Be careful of packaging and convenience products. Often you pay extra for this!! Example: You can buy one spray bottle of cleaner and then a larger economy size refill.

***A thought provoking bit of advice from  Ridgeley Goldsberg ~
Rich people buy assets: things that pay you, things that bring the flow of money back to you.
Middle class people by liabilities: things that cost you, such as something bought on credit card which you pay interest on.  You are contributing to the flow of money, but not tapping into it.
Poor people buy JUNK: things that are instantly worthless. ***
If you want to be rich, you need to be like a rich person.

From Global Teleclass:
Biz Tip One: “For every prospect who will slap you around, there is another one who will eat out of your hand.”
Biz Tip Two: “Work at the top. In other words, don’t waste time on tasks that can be done by people with fewer skills than you.”
Biz Tip Three: “The educated person is smart but the streetwise person is powerful.”
Biz Tip Four: If you’re not getting referrals you’re either not asking for them or you don’t deserve them.”
Coupons, Refunds, Rebates:

Interesting reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupon

A manufacturers coupon has redemption address, check for Canadian address, valid in Canada.

A store coupon usually has a code number on it and ‘valid at ___ store”. Some stores will accept both coupons on one item.
***Check Expiry Dates***

Some stores may let you ‘stack’ coupons. That means using more than one coupon per purchase. It is possible to get things almost free this way. With coupons, generally you still pay tax on the full price before discount.

Number of coupons accepted:
. More than one coupon may be accepted for a product, if each coupon
comes from a different media source. The different media sources may
include coupons from a newspaper, magazine, internet, bottle caps or
in-store manufacturer’s exclusive coupons.
. Upon redemption of a Manufacturer’s coupon, PST and or GST apply to
the full selling price of the item. Upon redemption of a Retailer
Issued coupon, PST and/or GST apply to the net amount of the item.

Refund/ Rebate: Is a form of getting cash back, usually you mail in proofs of purchase (UPC’s) to get a check sent to you. Sometimes offers ask for cash register receipt (CRT) Watch for this offer on kids movies.

Coufund = A coupon that requires proofs of purchase attached to use it. You attach UPC’s to a form and take to the cash register to redeem the offer.

UPC: Universal Product Code. The bar code you find on practically everything you buy. Often used as a proof of purchase for offers. The first set of numbers represents the company, the last set represents the description of the product right down to size and flavors. Save any UPCs off of products you buy, especially name brand products. When an offer comes up you will have what you need to take advantage of the offer.

Where to find coupons and offers: Newspapers, magazines, special inserts, store shelves, right on, or inside packaging. Online in the actual company websites.

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SCOP stands for Scanning Code of Practice and is a voluntary program instituted by the retail industry to benefit both the consumer and retailer with improving accuracy in scanned pricing.

Basically if a store participates in SCOP, it means that if a non-price ticketed item (i.e. an item that does not have a price sticker on it)scans in at a higher price than any advertised or displayed price, then the customer is entitled to receive the first one of that item for free (up to a maximum of $10) and the remainder of that item at the lower price.
For example, you have four cans of tuna that are on sale for 99 cents/can but they scan in at $1.69/ can. According to SCOP, you get the first can of tuna free and pay 99 cents for each of the remaining three cans of tuna.
If you bought four packages of diapers and they scanned in at a higher price than displayed or advertised, you would get $10 off the first package and the remaining packages at the correct price.

Stores participating in SCOP are supposed to have signs on the doors or at the tills indicating they abide by SCOP and are supposed to train all staff on this procedure.
https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/2014/07/scanning-code-of-practice-what-you-need-to-know/

www.retailcouncil.org/scanner-price-accuracy-code

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More money saving ideas:

Make your own convenience foods. Make two casseroles and freeze one for later to reheat on those hectic nights. Much cheaper and more healthy than ordering pizza. Make your own baby food.

When you go out for dinner, have a glass of water with lemon, or warm water with lemon. Not only do you avoid the high cost of additional drinks, the lemon water has a cleansing effect on your body as well.

These people are taking a challenge to spend only $80 a month on groceries, http://www.theworkingpoordiet.blogspot.com/

NETWORKING!!
If you have a friend to share talents with make use of that!! Maybe your friend can fix something, you can bake a cake for example. Trade off baby sitting. Take turns making meals for each other. Go together to case lot sales then split the cost.

BUY SECOND HAND ITEMS
Check out the free ‘used items’ publications. Use this for selling items too rather than paying for classified ads.

Take advantage of thrift stores, garage sales, and community recycling places such as Swap Sheds.

Vinegar uses:

http://www.rd.com/advice-and-know-how/extraordinary-uses-for-vinegar/article24053-5.html

Budget boosters:

Lots of useful consumer info here: www.competitionbureau.gc.ca

Dollar Stretchers: https://www.thedollarstretcher.com/

Consumer info on recalls: http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/index-eng.php

100 money saving tips: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/100-tips-to-help-you-save-in-2009-1.aspx

An excellent site for resource and budget information: https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/

BANKING:
If you are good on the computer and have regular access, get your checks direct deposited. Saves trips to the bank to cash them. ** Make sure to let government agencies know your current snail mail address.  This can be an issue in holding up your direct deposit.**
Get a bank account with a package deal and unlimited use of debit card, deposits etc. Usually for one low monthly fee rather than several charges.
Banking and paying bills can be done online which is quite easy and fast too. Much more organized when you get used to it.

UTILITY BILLS
Receive utility bills online. Get reminders sent to your email. Easily organized and saves time. No worries of misplacing bills and paying late which adds unnecessary charges.
Get equal payment plans on gas and hydro. One same payment all year. No surprise high bills in winter. Check phone bill for unnecessary extras. Use package plans that work for you. Get long distance plans to suit your needs.

All these little extra charges add up to a lot over the year.

Sign up for local newsletters. In doing this I have found out about free workshops around town. Any kind of free education can help you learn a lot of interesting and useful skills. The best investment is in yourself!

Check out sites from well known companies such as Gerber, Pampers, Nestle, Enfamil, Huggies, Similac, Fisher Price etc for clubs that offer parents coupons and exclusive offers.
Many franchise restaurants have club sites where you can sign up for birthday freebies and random coupons.

Resources:

Join a coupon group online to share shopping tips and ideas. This is where a lot of my useful information comes from. Look for Trading Post Coupons group on Facebook for a friendly bunch of people who participate in “coupon trains” and share resourceful information.

Good sites for contests, newsletters, coupons, etc. You can sign up for newsletters via email or snail mail.
www.homemadesimple.com
www.kraftcanada.ca

Other sites I recommend:

www.flylady.net FLY = Finally Loving yourself!! Awesome site for resources, encouragement, financial tips, organization

www.yeartosuccess.com a wonderful FREE online course. Lots of self help advice, business/marketing, and inspirational stories of well known successful people.
www.savingdinner.com This is a site you can sign up for detailed menus. There are also a few FREE downloadable menus that have the shopping lists included.

http://www.creditcounsellingcanada.ca/ In British Columbia, if your finances have got the better of you, you can go through the Credit Counseling Society of BC . They were wonderful in helping me get my finances under control when my first husband left me with $10,000 worth of debt. I found out in 2016 that my case back in 1998 was an original story they now use for training their staff.

Suggested reading:

Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach
Your Money, Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman
These books are jam packed with awesome advice to hang on to your money.

When Stuff Goes on Sale:

January
White sales and holiday clearance items. Hit Target on Jan. 6, says Find and Designʼs Jennifer Farrell: Thatʼs when they mark Christmas goods at up to 80 percent off. Other New-Year finds: workout gear and equipment, so you can make good on your resolutions.

February
Furniture, housewares, jewelry.

March
Frozen foods, luggage for warm-weather travel and preview price breaks on outdoor furniture.

April
Paint, wallpaper and other things for sprucing up your home for spring and summer; eggs; preview prices on summer clothing.

May
Major appliances (think Memorial Day sales), grills, picnic foods and goods.

June
Tools for outdoor projects, portable music players, dairy foods.

July
Air conditioners, clearance swimwear and summer fashions, major appliances (Fourth of July sales).

August
Clearance patio furniture, preview fall fashions, veggies, fruits

September
Household cleaners, school supplies, bicycles.

October
Candy, coats, preview prices on holiday toys

November
Blankets, comforters, window treatments to spiff up your home for the holidays.

December
Electronics, fancy china and serving pieces.

Save Money Grocery Shopping

1. Shop for produce at a local farm stand and watch for Farmer’s Markets where you can also buy fresh baked goods.

2. Never buy coffee, soda, or other drinks or snacks out….sure coffee at Tim Horton’s is great but just add up all that money you’re spending and think about what you could have bought with that money.

3. Always grocery shop with a list.  Always have your coupons with you too :o)

4. Take advantage of sales on items that you would normally buy and be sure to add coupons (if you have them to use).

5. Only shop when you really need to.  Dropping by the grocery store just to look around is when you’re going to spend unnecessarily.

6. Keep a price book and track prices….you’ll begin to see a trend for the sales and you’ll know good prices when you see them.

7. Stockpile staples when prices are low….maybe your stockpile isn’t as big as those “Extreme Couponers”, but by buying extras when there’s a sale, you’ll save money by not having to buy those items when they are higher priced.

8. Buy generic items unless the Brand Name item used with a coupon makes the price lower than the generic price.

9. Plan meals according to what is on sale that week + what you already have in your pantry or stockpile.

10.Take advantage of rain-checks if the store doesn’t have a sale item that you need.  I recently went to Wal-mart to buy Folger’s coffee but they were sold out, so I asked for a rain-check and asked if there was an expiry date for me to use it.  No expiry date…just pick it up next time you’re able to come in.  The sale price was $5.49 and I had coupons to save $1 when buying 2.  The price for it at our local grocery store is $11.99 so when I got to Wal-mart and found it in stock, I bought several to keep us going for a few months.

11.Take advantage of rebates… but only if you’ll use the item and will follow through on the rebate.  Forgetting to mail it in won’t give you any money back.

12.Buy enough of a sale item to last 12 weeks. That’s about how long sales take to cycle.  That will also give you some time to collect more coupons for that product.

13.Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Many stores offer a small discount per bag.

14.Take advantage of stores that “stack” coupons (in Canada, that would be for people who can shop at London Drugs, BC to MB only).

15.Watch out for deals on things that your friends need, and have them do the same for you….this might save the extra cost of gas for your vehicle and also save you some time.

Happy $hopping!!

Cookie Baking Tips

Using the Right Cookie Sheet

A shiny, aluminum cookie sheet at least two inches narrower and shorter than the oven is best for evenly browned cookies. The sheet may be open on one, two, or three sides. Do not grease the cookie sheet unless the recipe states to do so. If a dark colored cookie sheet is used, watch carefully for browning. Always place cookie dough on cool cookie sheets.

Making Sugar Cookies Crisp

Using butter in your holiday cookie recipes makes cookies crisp and delicious. Use a shiny aluminum cookie sheet for baking. For cut-out sugar cookies, roll dough to 1/8 inch to 1/4-inch thickness. Baking time may vary depending on the thickness of the cookie. Bake cookies until lightly browned.

Making Your Cookies Soft and Chewy

Tips for soft, chewy cookies:
Do not over mix the dough or use too much flour.
Bake cookies the minimum amount of time, even though the center may look slightly under baked. Let cookies stand on baking sheet for one to three minutes to continue to bake, then remove to cooling rack.
Store soft cookies in an airtight container.
Do not store soft chewy cookies with crisp type cookies.
Use shiny aluminum cookie sheets,not dark colored ones.

Keep Dough from Sticking to your Rolling Pin

Use a pastry cloth and stockinet-covered rolling pin to make rolling the dough easier and to help prevent dough from sticking. Rub flour evenly onto rolling pin cover and pastry cloth for easy handling. Or, if dough appears to be too soft, refrigerate for about one hour.

Why Cookies Spread

Cookies may spread for a variety of reasons. So before baking an entire batch, bake a test cookie to give a good indication of dough condition. If it spreads more than desired, the dough may be too soft. Try refrigerating dough until well chilled (one to two hours). If the dough is still too soft, stir in 1 to 2-tablespoons of flour. Also, do not over-soften the butter before making the dough. Be sure to cool and clean cookie sheets between batches.
Another factor to take into consideration is the fat source used. If a low fat or nonfat spread with 60 percent or less fat is used, cookies may spread.
For consistent and flavorful results, real butter is the answer for the appearance and taste bakers come to expect.

Freezing or Refrigerating Cookie Dough

Most cookie dough freezes well up to three months. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator until it’s just soft enough to use.
To have future batches of cookies ready in minutes, measure out dough for each cookie and drop dough onto cookie sheets; freeze until firm. When frozen, remove dough from cookie sheets, place in heavy-duty, resealable plastic food bags and freeze until you want to bake a batch of cookies. Then thaw the cookie dough and follow recipe directions for baking.

Over-baked and Cracked Cookies

Dough that is too dry will cause cookies to crack when baked. Too much flour and re-rolling results in tough, dry cookies. A dark colored cookie sheet may result in over baked cookies; us a shiny aluminum cookie sheet. Oven temperatures that are set too high may also result in over baked cookies.

Dry, Crumbly Cookie Dough

If your cookie dough is dry and crumbly, try adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk or cream. You may need to knead this liquid into dough rather than beating it in with a mixer.

What ingredients do you want to have on hand so you don’t have to run out to the market every day? You might consider having these staples in your kitchen so you can whip up a delicious meal at a moments notice. Most of these items you can find in your local supermarket and some you may need to order on-line, but they will definitely make your cooking life easier and more fun.

It’s important to remember that some products with long shelf lives, like spices, lose their flavor over time. So you may want to toss the ground cumin that hasn’t seen the light of day since that special grilled shrimp dish three years ago. And if you have a deep pantry like mine, you may want to check in the back every once and awhile to see what’s there.

So we’ll start with some of the basics and you can add to them according to your own cooking enjoyment:

  • Anchovies: a must for many pasta sauces, flat filets in a can or anchovy paste.
  • Artichokes: canned hearts packed in water.
  • Beans: an assortment of canned (easier) or dry (more work but tastier). Bread crumbs
  • Capers: great in salads and pasta dishes.
  • Chutney: great for crackers and sauces.
  • Clam juice: a good substitute for fish stock.
  • Corn meal: great for dredging foods and a must for polenta.
  • Coconut: either shredded in a can or coconut milk or better yet, both.Cornstarch: for thickening sauces
  • Crackers: assorted types.
  • Dried fruits: apples, apricots, currants, figs, and raisins.
  • Dried herbs: basil, bay leaves, chili powder, cinnamon, dill, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, crushed red pepper, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme.
  • Extracts: vanilla is the most important, but try orange and almond.

Flour: unbleached all-purpose

Jams, Jellies, Preserves, and Honey

Ketchup: always have an extra bottle on hand.

Mushrooms: an assortment of dried including shiitake, morels, and porcini.

  • Mustard: Dried and Dijon in a jar
  • Oils: Olive, pure for everyday cooking and virgin for drizzling, canola, and sesame.
  • Olives: canned, pitted and non-pitted, nicoise and calamata and olive paste
  • Pasta: an assortment of shapes and sizes; dried
  • Peanut butter: I like the chunky style.
  • Peas: canned petite style. Fresh is better, but these are good to have on hand
  • Pepper: whole peppercorns, ground black and white pepper.
  • Pesto, Tapenade, Salsa
  • Rice: Arborio (for risotto), brown, white, wild (not really a rice but a long grain marsh grass).
  • Salt: regular and sea salt.
  • Salad Dressings: my favorite is Good Seasons
  • Sauces: Soy or Tamari, Tabasco, Teriyaki, and Worcestershire
  • Stocks: see below
  • Sugar: white and brown, granulated and confectioners
  • Tomatoes: canned – whole plum, paste, and puree; sun-driedTuna: canned, packed in water.
  • Vinegar: balsamic, white wine, red wine, rice wine.Wines: Marsala, Madeira, and Sherry

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