Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In consideration of coupons

So, there has been some consternation in the coupon community (yes, there is such a thing as a "coupon community" - if it works for Trekkies it can work for us!) about Kroger's recent policy change regarding stacking electronic coupons with those printed on paper.

Actually, the policy changed last year - something that, once again, other couponers alerted me to - but the registers in my local stores were still allowing me to stack.

Yesterday, news broke in the local media about a software update, downloaded by the registers last week, which prevented that from happening. Since many of my friends know my couponing prowess, I've been asked about the change.

I don't know why this hit the media yesterday - they reported that the update downloaded over a week ago, on March 21. I went shopping that morning, and I had two conflicting experiences with ecoupons.

First, I tried to buy some Olay cleanser, and the register rejected my paper coupon. When the cashier looked at the register tape, she noticed I'd already used an ecoupon. It wasn't a big deal - the values were the same, and it was $2 off so it wouldn't have doubled anyway. I'd completely forgotten about downloading that ecoupon to my Kroger card, and told the cashier so. She gave me back my paper coupon.

No harm, no foul.

Then, when I looked at my receipt, I realized that it HAD let me stack for some Kraft cheese - making that item free. I don't know if the difference was in where I downloaded the ecoupons. The software upgrade may only apply to those issued through the Kroger website, and not Cellfire.

Hard as it may be to believe, I don't have a problem with this policy change. It's Kroger's business how they run their registers. I understand that the ecoupons could also be considered manufacturer's coupons (as opposed to those issued by the store), but I don't know that their site ever makes that clear.

Here is the problem I do have with how this is rolling out:

On the way home from work yesterday, I was listening to the radio simulcast of on of our local TV station's broadcast. They were doing a story on this situation, and a spokesperson for Kroger said that the updates were made to stop "fraud" and "those who abused the system."

That got my dander up, folks.

I do NOT consider myself having committed fraud all those times when coupons stacked. Many stores (like Target and Walgreens) issue store coupons that they allow to stack with those issued by the manufacturer. As I said before, there is some confusion as to who issues those ecoupons. It is NOT my fault that they considered themselves having a "software glitch" that allowed this to happen for so many years, or that it took them so many years to fix it. I have known since last year that this change was going to eventually come to my local stores, and knew I would not make a big deal about it. My Grocery Game list never took into account stacking, so that never factored into my buying decisions - and, frankly, most of the time I forget what coupons I have loaded.

Since the digital coupons do NOT double, and paper coupons do, I would like to have the choice to use one or the other - but the register does not allow you to withdraw redemption of an ecoupon to apply a different one. It just means I will have to be more vigilant about keeping up with what is what.

And as for "abusing the system?" PUH-LEASE. A lot of people have asked me if I plan on watching a new show which TLC is advertising, following "extreme couponers." Honestly, I do not. From what I've seen in the previews, THESE are the people who abuse the system. One lady came away with dozens and dozens of free Butterfinger bars, just because she could. I consider that system abuse not just from a store's viewpoint, but from a consumer's place as well. It's just plain bad taste to hoard items - there, I used that word - just because you can.

How would that person feel if she went into the store, and there was something on sale she REALLY needed, but someone had already cleaned out the stocks? Even if I'm not limited by the number of coupons I have - which is usually no more than two, very rarely three for an item - I try to be considerate of others. I will make trips on different days or to different stores if I know I need multiples of an item.

I am not interested in getting $400 dollars worth of groceries for $4. I have a small family, and I don't have room for that much food. Yes, I do take advantage of some deals so I will have things to donate, but come on - that is just shameful.

I also fear that these "extreme couponers" and the attention they're gaining will cause stores to take more notice of all couponers, and cause more policy changes like we've seen this week. I have already heard through the grapevine that, in some regions, Kroger is ceasing doubling coupons. To be fair, these seem to be due to stores abusing the policy, and most of these were also allowed to triple coupons on certain days. But as more and more people jump on the couponing bandwagon, and those on the fringes gain more exposure, I don't see that trend stopping any time soon.

So, as you coupon, PLEASE do so responsibly. The couponing privilege you save may be your own.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kroger Shakedown!

shakedown graphic.indd

I may have shared this with you before, but when Jason and I were first married, we were broke as a joke.

We were busted.

Broker than the Ten Commandments, as a dear friend of mine used to say.

Jason was working full time at the church, and only getting paid for part time, and I hadn't found a job yet. We subsisted on $250 a week for the first several months of our marriage.

(We also made some very big financial mistakes during that time that we had to deal with for years to come, but that's another post for another time.)

Anyway, there were many weeks that I only had about $5 to shop for groceries on. We at a LOT of hot dogs and cans of soup during those months! As a result, grocery shopping was not a joy at all. And I promised God that once we got out of that mess, I would never dread grocery shopping again.

And while I suppose there would have been something to be said for praise God as I was shopping with $5, I couldn't see that at the time. But, I have kept my promise and, every time I start to hate going to the store, I remember where we used to be and that we aren't there anymore - hallelujah!

What makes it even more enjoyable for me now is playing The Grocery Game. I'm a natural-born tightwad, so seeing how much food I can get for how little is right up my alley.

This week was another great trip for me. I love stopping in on my way to work, when there are hardly any other shoppers (and no nine-year-olds hanging on my cart) to slow me down!

Here's how it shaped up:

2 boxes of Lucky Charms (I should buy stock in this company, seriously!)
2 4.4 lb. bags of Pedigree dog food (99 cents each!)
3 bottles of Suave shampoo
2 boxes of Annie's Organic mac and cheese
2 bottles of Smart Water (and I'm hoping it lives up to its name)
2 bottles of Vitamin Water Zero
1 bag of Seattle's Best Cinnabon coffee
2 boxes of whole wheat linguine (for FREE!)
3 2-liter Coke products
1 bottle of Franks Hot Wing sauce
1 bag of coffee filters
2 bags of Kraft Homestyle Mac and Cheese
1 pouch Bumblebee tuna (for FREE!)
1 Lean Gourmet frozen dinner (for my lunch)
1 box Natures Valley granola bars
2.96 lbs bananas
2.81 lbs JAZZ apples. (I just love saying that. JAZZ apples!)

Total before coupons/sales: $78.80
Total out of pocket: $28.70
Total savings: $50.10 (65%!)

I've learned that my list isn't infallible, though: I saw that Wisk detergent was on sale at Kroger for $5.99, and I had several coupons for $2 off, which would have brought them to $3.99 a bottle. But, I wanted to check at Dollar General first to see if it was cheaper - and it was - 50 cents each. I stopped by yesterday evening and picked up three bottles for $10.50. We're now stocked up for several months to come!

Happy couponing!

Thursday, March 24, 2011



That’s what I am today. Just plain stumped.

I think I’ve told y’all this before, but I have a slight bit of a problem when it comes to losing stuff. When I lose something, it’s not just the object that’s gone – it’s my “religion” too.

I look. I ponder. I fuss. I fume.

I hate not being able to find something that’s lost.

Sometimes, it’s my own fault. I will admit to not being the best at putting things away when I’m finished with them. As much as I love my jewelry, I’m especially prone to just putting it down “wherever” at the end of the day.

(This might help explain why I’ve had at least one ring, one pair of earrings, and one necklace go missing in the past several years.)

Now, it’s not something of mine – it’s something of Anna Marie’s. It’s her Chess Club shirt.

Apparently, my kid hasn’t gotten the message that “Chess Club” automatically means “Big Nerd” in most parts. She loves playing chess, and gets pretty annoyed that I don’t catch on as easily as she did. I think to be a successful chess player, you have to be able to think through the consequences of your actions and see several steps down the road.

"Strategery" is not my strong suit. After all, if I were able to better see the consequences of my actions in the long term, I have an easier time resisting those cupcakes my sister brings when she comes over!

But I digress.

Anna Marie has been after me for weeks – no, make that months - to find that shirt. She has Chess Club every two weeks after school, and she’s only worn that shirt once or twice. And then, on Tuesday I received an email from the teacher that went a little something like this:

“We’re taking pictures at Chess Club on Thursday, so if you bought a shirt for your child, they need to wear it!”

Cue panic attack in 3, 2, 1…

I knew I hadn’t been able to look for that shirt. I knew I wasn’t going to be home until late in the evening on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I knew this was probably a lost cause.

But still, I looked. I poked. I prodded. I pouted.

And no shirt.

So today, instead of a royal blue T-shirt, she’s wearing a red polo. As I child, I would have been mortified by the thought of just another thing making me stand out, making me different, from the other kids. But Anna Marie was non-plussed. She pointed out to me that not everyone would have a shirt, because not everyone had ponied up the money and bought one.

My kid, the eternal optimist.

At least I’ll be able to spot her when the picture comes out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller...

Portrait of a Budding Star

Photo courtesy of her Aunt Manda, naturally.

My daughter, the basketball player.

No one is more surprised by her prowess on the court, or her dedication to the sport, than her own mother is.

My favorite past time is sitting on the couch holding a remote and seeing how many shows I can watch at once. (Because there might be something better on another channel!) Jason, well, he played baseball as a kid, but he's not much for sports now.

I don't know what it is about the sporting life that appeals to her so. She's always been active. From the first day she was born, we've had a hard time keeping up.

And COMPETITIVE. Lawd help us. I guess playing sports is the perfect marriage of her two most obvious personality traits, and basketball is their favorite child.

She started playing Upward basketball with a church in Senatobia last year, and I was quite surprised with her natural talent for the game. Who'd taught this kid to shoot like that? Certainly not me. I can't hit the broadside of a barn.

She was super excited to play again this year, and practiced every time she got a chance. Waiting for me to pick her up from choir practice in the Baptist Church gym, you can find her, red faced and sweaty, trying to refine her shot. After children's church at our church, she's pulling out the basketball goal in their sanctuary and trying for two more points.

Her choice of apparel hinges upon whether it's comfortable enough to play basketball in.

With just a little extra coaching this season, she was on fire for her last game. Our head usher had seen her practicing after a leadership meeting one Sunday night, and spent a good bit of time playing one-on-one with her while giving her instructions. I have been amazed at the difference those few minutes have made in her game.

She doesn't have a goal at home - yet - but she spends hours on the porch practicing her dribbling and fake-shooting. Sometimes she persuades me to come pass the ball to her and run up and down the "court" in a makeshift game.

Sometimes, she sets up the cheap-o video camera we got her for Christmas and films herself so she can critique her performance.

Those NBA wristbands she's wearing in that picture? She convinced my mom to buy them because "They're just like LeBron James'." When I try to tell her how horribly Derek Rose messed up the Memphis program a few years ago with the cheating scandal that caused the NCAA to void their second-place championship season, all she says is, "I want to see proof. If they can't prove it, it didn't happen."

Whose kid is this, anyway?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The triumphant return of the Kroger Shakedown!

shakedown graphic.indd

Yes, gentle readers, lots of changes have been going on in Melz World. You know what hasn't changed?

That's right. COUPONS. I cannot imagine a scenario in which I'm not a coupon junkie. Even if we had tons and tons of money, I'm pretty sure I'd still be a bargain shopper.

It's just who I am.

Although it's been a long, long time since I blogged about my shopping exploits (or anything else for that matter...) I've still been clipping and shopping and saving my family wads and wads of cash.

This week was especially rewarding. Kroger seems like they're having more and more of their cart-busting, buy-x-number-of-things-and-save-y-amount-on-your-bill sales.

And I am NOT complaining. It's a bit of a pain, yes, to stop and count the items in my basket and watch the checker like a hawk - especially with a kid in tow. But, thanks to some recent changes of scenery here in Melz World, I now have the opportunity to visit the store very early in the morning, kid-less, and when it's much, much less crowded. Score!

I got several things for free this week, which makes me VERY excited. They include six FREE cans of Pedigree dog food (which I don't normally buy, but hey, it was free and I have 210 lbs of dogs to feed), two boxes of Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta, and a packages of Kraft 2% Milk Singles!

All-in-all, my bill was $40.83 and my savings added up to $73.34. For those of you who are no good with The Maths (like me) that's 66% saved!

Here is a quick rundown of my list:

2.65 lbs bananas
5 2-liter Coke products
6 cans of Pedigree dog food (FREE!)
3 4.4 lb. bags of Pedigree dry food (for 99 cents each!)
4 cans of Red Gold tomatoes (for a quarter each!)
2 boxes Ronzoni Smart Taste spaghetti (FREE!)
2 jars Pace salsa
2 packages Bumblebee Tuna (in the pouches)
2 bottles low-sodium V8 juice
1 box Lucky Charms
2 boxes Kroger 25-calorie hot cocoa
1 bottle Frank's Red Hot
1 bottle Frank's Red Hot hot wing sauce
1 bottle Irish Spring body wash
1 jar Mt. Olive pickles
1 package coffee filters
1 package Kraft 2% milk singles (FREE!)
1 bottle Olay Reginerist Cleanser (for my mom)
1 package fresh chicken tenders
3.10 lbs Jazz apples

I still start to panic when the total rings up to over $80 (after sales) until my coupons kick in. Silly Mel! You'd think I'd know better by now!

Stay sweet, coupons. Don't ever change!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How does your garden grow?

One of the many changes here at Melz World is that I've apparently become a gardener.

No, really!

I've wanted for years to be one of "those people" - the ones who worked in the dirt, making beautiful landscapes and growing more vegetables than they could ever eat every summer.


Every year, I've had good intentions. Every year, I've failed.

Not this year. At least not in the "following through on my good intentions" part.

Will these impatiens and violets grow? I don't know. Will the dogs destroy my hard work? I have no clue.

All I know is I spent time digging in the dirt today, and, for now at least, it looks good. I've often thought that I might have talents I didn't know I had, just because I've never tried. Well, here's my chance to see just what color my thumb is, once and for all.

So tell me, gentle readers, how does YOUR garden grow?

(No, for real. I need some tips!)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The view from where I am


See that photo up there? It was taken just a few minutes ago. It's the view from where I am.

I've been a little AWOL in the past few months - and a lot of changes have happened in Melz World in that time.

The view from where I am has changed drastically in the past month and a half. Big chunks of my life I'd grown accustomed to - comfortable as an old pair of fleece PJs - have changed. I've gone through more transition in that short period than I have in a very, very long time.

I'm still making adjustments, still finding my footing, and still trying to contemplate my place in the grand scheme of things.

I know I'm being a little vague, but for those who only know the "bloggy me" rest assured they're good changes. They might not be things I would have originally chosen for myself, but the opportunities I've been blessed with show the unmistakable fingerprints of God all over them.

I'll be blogging more about those changes and what my life is like in the very near future. But for now, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the view from where I am is looking pretty good.