Savoring Coffee and the Weekend

french-press

By Liz

Like most, our Mondays through Fridays are extremely hectic. That’s not to say that our weekends aren’t busy either, but we tend to tackle those two glorious days with more of a laid back vibe.

Even though we are family that tries to tighten our belts every chance we get, we do have some luxuries that we enjoy.  As I have mentioned in a previous article, my husband gave me a Keurig coffee machine many Christmases ago that gets a lot of use in our house as you can imagine with the 7 of us.  In fact, it seems as though our Keurig is always hard at work brewing a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa.  What I like most about it, is that it produces a hot, fresh cup of whatever our palates are craving at any particular time.  For example, I enjoy a regular medium roast cup of coffee, my husband enjoys hazelnut coffee, while the older boys enjoy some very strong, alternate flavored, gourmet coffees (that they buy with their own money) and while our teens turn their beverages into iced coffees now and then, they mostly stick to cocoa.




When my hubby and I got married, we received a French Press coffee pot as one of our gifts. It was the first time I had tried a cup of coffee from a French Press.  At the time, I was skeptical, because it reminded me so much of the same process used when making instant or peculated coffee, which is what I grew up on, needless to say, I was not a huge fan of either of those methods back in the day, but it was all we had. But from that very first sip of coffee that was brewed from the French Press coffee pot….I was hooked. The aroma, the intense, smooth flavor, the rich color….OMG!! I was in café heaven!

Mondays through Fridays, I start my days at 6:00 a.m. with a fresh cup of coffee every morning, brewed from my Keurig. While my Keurig is starting up, I will flip open my laptop, log on and start checking emails, start to work on an article for my blog, throw in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, etc… before the rest of my brood even starts wiping the sleep crud from their eyes.  On an average day, I typically enjoy 2, sometimes 3 cups most mornings, another cup late in the afternoon and sometimes a cup at lunch, depending on what is on the menu.




Weekends however are another story when it comes to java. I sleep in on Saturday and Sundays (usually until about 6:45 a.m.) on these 2 days, my beloved French Press Coffee pot comes out.  I brew a fresh, hot pot of coffee and then spend some overdue, quality time, relaxing and enjoying my java.  Depending on what kind of weekend it is, I pair my cup of coffee with a good book and a blanket, curled up on the couch. Then there are times when I sip on my java and watch an old movie; but my favorite is when the weather cooperates, I will sit out on my back patio and just enjoy another beautiful day that God has created, just taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the fresh morning air while sipping on my cup of heaven.

After well over a decade in the corporate world, which also included those rushed,” squeeze in all those tasks on the weekends because you were working all week”, and even now, though I am our COO and Home Manager, of a hustling and bustling household,  I purposely find time to savor the flavor of my coffee and weekend mornings.




Dollar Tree Musts

money-tree

By Liz

If you are like me, you have read many an article from different folks sharing their top buys at the Dollar Tree store.

Dollar Tree stores have been in existence since 1991 and operates more than 13,600 stores throughout the 48 contiguous U.S. states and Canada.

Dollar Tree is classified as an extreme discount store and while initially, it’s targeted consumers were those who were suffering financial burdens, it has now become more popular with affluent customers (that’s how the affluent, stay affluent, by saving their money).

So here is my list of must haves from Dollar Tree:

cards

1.Greeting cards.  While I do “care enough to send the very best”, I am not particularly fond of taking out a small loan to pay for the sentiment. This is especially true when you are shopping for several cards for special occasions and you can’t find a box set with the repeated greeting. If you look hard enough, Dollar Tree even offers a section of cards that are 2 for $1.00.

bags

2.Gift bags/wrapping.  The store offers a wide variety of gift bags, in assorted sizes, plain, unmarked as well as occasion specific decorated bags.  In addition they offer bows, tissue paper, stickers and tags.

seasonal

3.Sesonal items.  Each major (and some minor) holiday, you can find wall décor, table décor,  crafts, ornaments, baking items, disposable and non-disposable kitchen items, and more to help you celebrate, without breaking the bank.

party

 

4.Party. Whether you are hosting a birthday, holiday, shower or a wedding, you can find invitations, thank-yous, banners, balloons, party favors, table ware, centerpieces and more.

readers

5.Reading glasses. Dollar Tree offers an array of magnifications and a wide variety of frame styles for both men and women. The store also offers, cleaning cloths and hard shelled glass cases in different sizes to help you keep your readers safe.

newspapers

6.Your local Sunday newspaper.  If you are a “couponer”, I personally believe that this is your most cost efficient way of obtaining duplicate coupons, (unless your friends, family and/or neighbors donate them to you).  If you are going to buy multiple Sunday papers, some locations may limit the quantity, so you might want to check with store personnel. Also, if they haven’t sold out, you can still find the Sunday paper, throughout the week at the store.

books

7.Activity books. Sophisticated coloring books for youth and adults are all the rage right now and I have seen some of these complex, designed coloring books with a hefty price tag being offered at both online and brick and mortar stores, Dollar Tree offers the same kind of coloring entertainment, just at a bargain rate.  Dollar Tree also sells puzzle books, so if you, or someone you know enjoys passing the time with word search, Sudoku or crossword puzzles, you can find plenty of options for only a $1.00 a piece. This is not only a great form of entertainment on the cheap, but it also requires one to “unplug” for awhile, while engaged in these activities….and who couldn’t use some more of that?

foil

8.Aluminium foil pans. Due to the size of our household, 7 people, we generally wind up hosting all of the major and some of the minor holidays at our house. It doesn’t feel right converging on my sister’s family of 3 and expect them to cook for our brood.  That’s when these lifesavers come in handy.  I can generally do some or most of the cooking a day or two prior to the event, store the food in the foil pans, and then just re-heat the day of the feast. Then there is the clean up factor, it is exhilarating to just empty the pan, crumple it up and toss it in the trash.  These beauties are a wonderful time saver for me and I am able to enjoy the day with my family and not be stuck in the kitchen cooking and doing dishes all day.

pasta

9.Pasta. Most stores offer this pantry staple pretty cheap, so you might be wondering why I listed it. When was the last time you actually looked at the size of the package when you bought pasta at your favorite grocery store? I have noticed that at even at my own beloved grocery stores, offers pasta for as low as 85 cents per package……great deal, right? Not exactly, upon further inspection, the size of the package is only 12 ounces. This equates to 7 cents per ounce. Dollar Tree offers both 16 and 24 ounce packages, this equates to 6 cents and 4 cents per ounce, respectfully. This probably does not sound like much of a savings, but when you eat as much pasta as we do, it just makes cents (see what I did there?).

broth

10.Broth. I know….I know….making your own homemade broth is more economical, but I use so much beef and chicken broth on a weekly basis, that I would have to make a batch every 2-3 days. Dollar Tree offers beef, chicken, and sometimes when I can find it vegetable broth. Each container is 32 ounces (4 cups) for $1.00. Even though making it from scratch would save me money, this option saves me time, and that too is just as valuable to me.

So there you have it, my personal favorites from Dollar Tree.  I hope that you will be able to apply some of these suggestions into your own time and money saving routines.  Stop in at your local Dollar Tree, you just might be surprised what you find.




Why I Don’t Coupon

 

coupons

by Liz

We have all seen or at least heard about couponing and extreme couponing, where everyday people have been able to save anywhere from 40% all the way up to a staggering 90% off of their grocery bill by means of clipping some coupons and following their local grocery store sales.  To these folks, I say, congratulations!

A few years back, I too, jumped on this bandwagon, hoping to save myself and my family of 7 buckets of cash while amassing stockpiles of items we would not have to re purchase at full price at an inopportune time in the future.

Here is what I experienced:

1.  In order to maximize and accumulate the quantity my family would need of any one particular item, I would need multiple coupons for the same item.  No problem, I just picked up more than one Sunday paper with coupons at my local Dollar Tree for $1.00 per newspaper (our Dollar Tree has a 5 quantity limit). The alternative to this was to print coupons at home, however, it would cost me more in paper and ink to print up multiple coupons, and some of the coupon companies would set a limit of only 2 print out per device, thereby, having me jump from one computer to another to be able to print what I needed.

2. After gathering all my coupons, I would then spread them out over my living room floor combining duplicates and then separating them into like categories; i.e. dairy; cleaning; beauty; snacks; etc…

3. Then I would have to cut them all down to size and put them all together in my storage system,  I had chosen the 3 ring binder/baseball card pocket storage, as I thought this would be the easiest to carry around and shop with at the grocery stores.  However, before filing these little beauties away, I would first have to “weed” out all my expired coupons, and their always seemed to be a lot of them that I had not used and I had to toss out.

4. Later that day, I would pull out the local grocers sales flyers from the week to start to match up sale items with coupons, giving me the lowest prices I could find on any given item.  This was an ongoing step in this process, because unlike in the North East of the country where the store’s sales run from Sunday to Saturday, here in Texas, the sales run from Wednesday to Tuesday, for this reason alone, there was always more than one trip to the stores in any given week, (this is marketing genius on behalf of the grocery stores.)

5. After gathering my coupon binder, I would head off to seek my treasures, I would then be stopping in at least 2 to 3 stores at least twice a week to cash in on my savings and reap my rewards.  Usually upon leaving the store, I would check my receipt, I would generally save, somewhere in the ball park of 40%, not nearly the savings as bragged about by self appointed “coupon mavens”, but week after week, I would be at it again.

6. Once I got my items home, I needed to find a place to store them.  At the time, the 7 of us were living in a 1600 sq. ft. home, and it seemed as though the kids were growing all the time.  For this reason, I asked my wonderful husband to build me some shelving out in our garage, which he happily did.




After only a few months of this ritual of savings, I had acquired quite a large, over-flowing stock pile of goods. Most of the items were health and beauty items, which we kept in our garage in our then, new, elaborate shelving system and most of the food and pantry staples were kept in our tiny kitchen storage system.

coupons

I was feeling mighty proud of myself at the time and was pleased in knowing that if anyone of my family members needed to replace their toothbrush, deodorant or any other product, all they had to do was go “shopping” in our stash, which I had purchased at a discount.

Here is what I actually learned:

1. My time is precious and valuable.  After only a couple of weeks, I learned I dreaded Sundays.  Spending hours of my time going through this crazy, couponing cycle, only to save an average of about 40% was disheartening, when I was striving for a larger savings.

2. Most of the items, I obtained due to couponing we hadn’t ever really needed or used. The only reason I bought most of the items instead of my usual brands, was because there was a coupon being offered.

3. My family never learned to live the motto of “a little goes a long way” because psychologically they knew there was an endless supply of items, so there was never any thought of how to conserve anything.

4. When my stock pile would start to look sparse, here or there, I would start to panic and get anxious, so I would usually go out of my way, with an additional trip to the grocery store(s), on top of the 2 times I was already going per week, just to replenish my vast inventory, thereby spending even more of my time and my money.

5. We did not have the storage space to keep this “hamster on a wheel” way of shopping up.  If you were an outsider looking in, we looked like a mom and pop general store or a family of hoarders at least that was certainly the way I had started to feel.

6. In the end, when me moved from our 1600 sq. ft. home, we looked at our couponing treasures, and there was a lot of it, we decided to donate most of it to families that were in need.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of “couponers” who donate much of their goods, and I feel like my family and I are very blessed, so we had no qualms about giving to those in need.

7. I have since gone back to my original way of shopping which include:

a. Shopping  at my local Winco and Aldi food stores, both of which offer the lowest prices, compared to the other, larger grocery chains.

b. Buying in bulk.  My Winco has a wonderful bulk section, so I can stock up on nuts, cereals, beans, grains, rice and even candy if I so choose.

c. If I am in my local Walmart, Albertson’s or Tom Thumb stores, I will always swing by their discounted sections to see what kind of deals they have.  I have been able to purchase discounted, but still wonderful looking meats, cheeses, pastries and breads at each of these stores.




My now stock pile(s) only have a 1 to 2 item reserve on any given item, sometimes less. I am ecstatic to say the least, as I do not have to look at all that clutter not to mention, I have regained control of my Sunday’s and now use that time to spend with my family enjoying our life and our home together.

And the most important:  I shop only once a week.  By limiting my trips, I save time, gas and money and who can’t use more of those?

Coffee, Tea or More Money in your Wallet?

barista

by Liz

Convenience, it is something that comes with a price tag. We have all seen it and we have all, at one time or another, indulged in this luxury.

Whether it be a meal from a drive thru window, buying a cooked rotisserie chicken for a quick dinner entree or stopping for that favorite cup of gourmet java.

Life is busy, and sometimes these conveniences are a godsend.  This article is not about cutting them out of your life, but how to maximize them. Let’s take a look at one in particular and most everyone’s favorite,(especially mine) that cup of coffee or tea that gets our engines running for the day or mid day in my case.

Have you noticed that the lengthier or more fruity the name of the beverage, the heftier the price tag? Ridiculous when you think about it, especially when you consider that the main ingredient in these beverages is water, and if you are a frequent consumer to these kinds of establishments on a regular basis, this cost adds up.  The last time I frequented one of these establishments, the average price for a medium , regular, straight up cup of coffee was around $2.00 and one of those high falutin beverages hovered around $5.00 (and don’t even get me started on the calorie count).  Using some simple math; $5.00 a day x 5 days a week x 52 weeks in the year = $1,300.00. I don’t know about you, but I can think of at least 10 things off of the top of my head that I would rather spend $1,300.00 on.

Ask yourself, if you were in your own home, would you be making this kind of drink on a regular basis? Or, like most people, would you be making just a regular cup of tea or coffee?  My guess is that most people would answer the latter of the two.  Nowadays, with gourmet flavored, teas, coffees and creamers available at your local grocery store, not to mention the invention of the commuter cups, why is a stop at one of these establishments even on anyone’s radar?




A few Christmases ago, my loving husband gave me one of the best gifts ever. It was a Keurig machine.  Sure, a traditional automatic drip coffee maker with its large filter system is less expensive, but I enjoy fresh, hot coffee and with the auto drip coffee maker, I would find that after about 30 minutes of the coffee sitting on the warmer, it would tend to start tasting bitter, and I would toss out about half a carafe full.

Yes, there is the argument that the pod inserts for these machines are costly as well, however, over the years; there have been many alternatives to the brand specific beverages made for this machine.  Many bulk warehouse stores sell  pods by the case, discount stores sell generic as well as some name brand, discounted pods; it is up to you which of these lower priced alternatives your wallet and your flavor palate can agree upon.

Personally, I have gone one extra step in frugality, and I will get two servings of coffee from just one pod. My first cup of coffee, I always choose the largest cup selection my machine offers, for my second cup, I go down to the second to largest selection. Since these coffees are well concentrated in this little container, I hardly taste a huge difference between the two cups and my average cost is a whopping 22 cents per cup…..much easier to swallow, isn’t it?

Another option is the mesh; reusable coffee pods available in usually a two or three pack at most stores.  With these pods, you fill it with your choice of ground coffee or tea, thereby cutting your expense dramatically. Here is when you can take a little creative license because nowadays you can get coffees and teas in bulk in all sorts of strengths and flavors from almost anywhere and you will still beat the hefty price tag of a convenience purchased $2.00 regular cup of coffee.

Try giving these methods a try for a couple of weeks and see what comfort and compatibility level you can live with. Stop making the beverage conglomerates of the world richer and start putting your hard earned cash back in your pocket.