Archive for Tips & Techniques

Easter Appetizers – Deviled Egg Tulips

deviled egg tulips videoWhether for Easter or just for spring, these deviled eggs that look like tulips are sure to be a hit. Everyone loves deviled eggs, and they are particularly inexpensive to make (especially around Easter when eggs are on sale).

In the following video I show my technique for my spring-time deviled eggs. I developed it before there were internet videos. I’m sure I was inspired by a magazine or TV show, but I’m proud to have figured it out myself.

To start, you’ll need to hard-cook and peel your eggs. I recommend steaming. I tried it for the first time using these directions for steamed eggs on Fresh Eggs Daily. I don’t think I’ve ever had eggs peel so easily (especially not fresh ones!). I doubt I’ll ever go back to boiling.

Once you’ve cooked and cooled the eggs, you’ll want to soak them in a mixture of food coloring and water. You don’t need to add other ingredients, the whites will color just fine. You can adjust the amount of food color and the length of time you soak your eggs to get the color you want. (I was out of red food coloring so I used unsweetened Wild Cherry Koolaid mixed with water. Perhaps 1/16 of a tsp to 2 cups of water. The eggs have a hint of the wild cherry, which I’m not fond of, so stick to food coloring if you have it around.)

Once the eggs are colored, the video will take you the rest of the way…

Enjoy! And Happy Easter to you and yours!

Free Credit Reports

federal trade commission page on free annual credit reportsEven though the law requires it, there are some unscrupulous companies out there that mislead you into thinking you need to know your credit SCORE, which certainly has it’s place, but it’s not necessary when you’re just doing an annual checkup on your credit report to check for accuracy. They will also try to sell you all manner of other services, many of which are a total waste of money.

Most of the following has been swiped directly from the FTC web page on the subject: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/freereports/index.shtml

Why should I request (and check) my credit report?

Because the information in your credit report is used to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and renting a home, you should be sure the information is accurate and up-to-date.  In addition, monitoring your credit is one of the best ways to spot identity theft.  Check your credit report at least once a year to correct errors and detect unauthorized activity.

Federa law requires commercial websites that say they offer free credit reports to include a box letting you know you can get a free credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Click on the link to www.AnnualCreditReport.com, the only place to get the free report that’s yours by law.

Many companies claim to offer free credit reports – and some do. But others give you a report only if you buy other products or services. Still others say they’re giving you a “free” report and then bill you for services you have to cancel. If you go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com and follow the prompts for your free credit report, you can be sure the reports you get really are free.

What is AnnualCreditReport.com?

AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for the free annual credit report that’s yours by law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, and yet couldn’t get it without paying fees or buying other services. TV ads, email offers, or online search results may tout “free” credit reports, but there is only one authorized source for a truly free credit report.

During a class on protecting oneself from identity theft the instructor offered an interesting idea on how to monitor your credit year-round. Since you are entitled to a free report from each of the three big credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Trransunion and Experian), rather than getting them all at once, just order one, then 3 months later, order the next one, then 3 months later the last, then start the series again in 3 months.

Shelf Life of Food

Knowing the shelf life of the food in your stockpile is handy. I’ve already shared this site where you can check the shelf life of foods before, but it bears repeating, because it’s just SO darned handy.

Still Tasty: Your ultimate shelf life guide

Today’s post by StillTasty was about peanut butter. They confirmed what I was taught growing up: peanut butter doesn’t have to be refrigerated after opening. That helps, too, ’cause it’s too hard to spread when it’s cold. They go on to discuss the average shelf life of peanut butter, and that it can be extended by refrigeration.

I’m always pretty careful about food storage, I don’t want anyone I’m feeding to get sick from bad food. I was so paranoid about it years ago that I actually threw out a pot of cooked rice that had been on the stove a few hours after dinner. My mom set me straight on that one… no meat, no dairy, no eggs, it was plain cooked rice that had been at a boil for 20 minutes. Nothing gonna grow in THAT pot over the course of two hours.  But you can bet I’ll still chuck leftover potato salad if it’s been sitting out too long.

Knowing the shelf life of foods is handy for those of us who stockpile, we need to plan for how long things will keep. Getting food at a discount doesn’t do any good if you have to throw it out because it’s gone bad.

Shelf Life of Food in Your Stock Pile

I just found a link to a nifty site where you can look up the shelf life of of the food in your stockpile, as well as just about anything you can think of: StillTasty.com

I ran through the search for a handful of items, coolio! I haven’t trusted the shelf life dates on food packaging since reading the lack of FDA regulations regarding them. (See my previous article about product dating.) The fact that there is an expiration date on WATER is a pretty strong indication that the shelf life marked on most food packaging is more about profit than anything else.

(I found the Still Tasty site in the resource list in Tim Ferris’ latest book The 4-Hour Body.)

Saving money in the garden

If you’re like me, your tomato plants are getting big and gangly. To save money, instead of twine or specialty items from the garden store Read More→

25 Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store

money in jar

  1. Make a list. My preference is to make a list, shopping for 1 or 2 weeks worth of meals at a time. I order the list loosely by the departments in the store (produce, meat, dairy, baking, etc.). Unless I happen upon an incredible deal on an item we need, I do not buy anything not on my list. It takes some discipline, but it’s easier if you follow the next two tips.
  2. Shop alone. Nothing bloats your grocery bill like a kid or two at the grocery store. Or a spouse! It makes it nearly impossible to concentrate on your list and the extra requests are likely to get a nod, just to stop the interruptions. If at all possible, leave the family behind. When the kids get old enough and you are teaching them to shop, that’s an entirely different scenario.
  3. Don’t shop hungry. If you’re tummy is telling you it’s time to eat, you’re much more likely to buy convenience foods and snacks, making it difficult to stick with your list.
  4. Know your prices. I used to have a price book and I think it is a very useful tool when you are first trying to save money on groceries, because you have to know what something costs before you know if you are getting a good deal. After a while, you’ll get a much better sense of the prices (and how much they’ve been creeping up the past few years). If you’re new to frugal shopping, make a price book. You can find instructions for doing so on sites all over the web. Or check out the Tightwad Gazette from your local library.
  5. Use coupons from the newspaper and internet. Using coupons to save on groceries can save you a dramatic amount of money. I did it the “wrong” way for over 20 years, wasting time and not saving much. In spring of 2008, I read an article in The Dollar Stretcher (a free ezine I’ve been getting for more than 12 years) and “saw the light.” I’m a total couponing evangelist now. One of the places where you can get great information on how to make couponing work for you is The Coupon Mom website. She has ebooks at that link that you can download for free and she really covers the basics well.
  6. Seek out supermarkets that will double or triple your coupons. This is where the power of couponing really shines. Combining a coupon with a sale when the store doubles or triples your coupon can bring you prices down to just pennies on the dollar. In my area the stores that double, and sometimes triple coupons, are stores that I used to avoid because their overall prices seemed very high to me. I’m fortunate that they are close and compete with each other. In some areas, particularly retirement communities or small towns with only one grocery store, they don’t have to compete, so they don’t offer the discounts.
  7. Stock up when a deep discount is available. Stocking up (within reason!) on products that you will use anyway, when you can get them cheaper just makes sense. Make sure to consider shelf life, though. You aren’t saving any money if you buy food and it spoils before you can eat it. I have two freezers and only buy meat when it’s at rock-bottom prices for my area.
  8. Plan your meals in advance. This is my starting point for item #1. I have a list of about 60 dinner menus that I’ve made and my family enjoys, using the contents of my freezer and the grocery store inserts for sales as my guide. I like to serve a variety of foods, so I make a 2-week list of days and try to alternate the meals by meat (chicken, pork, fish, beef), cooking method (casserole, fried, roasted), and ethnicity (Italian, Mexican, Chinese). Further consideration in the order of the meals is planning for leftover of one meal to be used for another. For example, if I’m planning on roasting a chicken, I plan to make Enchiladas or Chicken a la King with the leftovers. I have a basic idea of what side dishes I serve with the entrees, so I can take a quick peek in the pantry or freezer to see if I need any of those items.
  9. Compare unit costs. Bigger is not always better. Grocery stores have been required to list the unit price on the shelf for decades now. With the variations in packaging it makes it hard to tell how much of a product you are getting without the unit price. Occasionally you’ll see different units (pounds vs. ounces) on the label (more so at the “club” stores) and will need to do basic calculations to see which is the better buy.
  10. Consider generics and store brands. I don’t personally care for generic hot dogs, but paper goods, canned food, and for scores of other items, my family can’t tell the difference. Generics and store brands are frequently made in the same factory as the name brands, with minor differences and a different label. Not all are equal, though, so try out a product before stocking up. Again, you don’t save money on something if you later throw it out. If I need a product for a recipe and I don’t have a coupon, I’ll nearly always buy the store brand or generic version. Sometimes even with a coupon the generic brand is still cheaper, and the brand-name coupon gets re-filed, or left on the shelf for someone else to use.
  11. Don’t buy non-groceries at the grocery store. Most personal care items are less expensive at discount stores or chain pharmacies (Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid). Hardware, lightbulbs, extensions cords, office supplies, greeting cards, etc., are usually all sold at “suggested retail price” at the grocery store and can be purchased for much less at the “big box” stores. There are exceptions to this, of course. With double or triple coupons many cleaning supplies and personal care items (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) can be a steal at the grocery store. Lysol wipes, for instance were on sale recently during a couponing event and when the coupon doubled, the item was free. Great way to stock up for my school teacher husband’s classroom!
  12. Buy fresh produce when in season. Green beans in season are usually about 80 cents a pound, off season they are nearly double that. During the winter months buy frozen or canned. (Or alternatively, buy or grow a lot of them and freeze them yourself for use in the off season.) Off-season produce is rarely at it’s peak, so paying a premium for shelf-ripened fruit and veggies just doesn’t make sense. Plums in January? Ew!
  13. Understand marketing ploys. For sale and on sale don’t mean the same thing. Just because a product is in the store’s ad doesn’t mean it’s a sale price. It’s just advertising, and frequently they are advertising it because there is a higher profit on that particular item. Usually, if an item is ON sale, the regular price is listed in the ad so you can see what the savings is. The end caps with the great big signs at your store don’t necessarily signify a sale either, but since many people assume they are there because of a discount, they stock up. Oftentimes, if the end cap is stocked with sale items, the store will display non-sale accessory items there as well. For instance a big display of sale-priced peanut butter might be accompanied with the most expensive grape jelly in the store or expensive breads or crackers. (This is when it really pays to know your prices.) The science of how people shop is fairly well documented. The most profitable items in the grocery store are shelved at eye-level (except in the cereal aisle, they’re at eye-level for a 7-year-old). Usually, you’ll find your best prices on items on the top shelf or the bottom shelf. Compare unit prices, though, as each store has it’s own way of doing things.
  14. Consider shopping at multiple stores. Let me qualify that by saying, shop at different stores if it makes sense! My stores are all within a few minutes of each other, some are across the street from each other. I only go to more than one store if the savings is going to make up for my time and gas. Usually that means I’m buying lots of stuff super cheap (with coupons), or stocking up on meat that is being sold at rock-bottom prices. The thought of driving even a mile to save 50 cents makes me a bit crazy. But if I’m going to buy 20 pounds of chicken breasts at under $1.80 a pound, (less than half of what many stores charge), yup, I’m there, because the thought of paying what most people do makes me even crazier.
  15. Sign up for store discount cards/memberships (free only!). It would be great if all stores would just give you the sale price and nix the store cards, but since they don’t you have to play along if you want the deals. It takes 5 minutes to fill out the application and is well worth your time. Many stores are now giving you even more discounts if you are a member of their “club” and allow them to send you emails as well. I’ve got some great deals that way and it takes about half a minute to browse that weekly email and make a mental note of whether I’m interested in that deal. I’m not a big fan of the the membership stores (Sams, Costco, BJs). There are only a handful of items that they sell that I can’t get a better price on using coupons and/or sales. For the membership fee it just isn’t worth it.
  16. Find out when your store marks down meat, bread and produce. When the “sell by” date is approaching grocery stores will deeply discount perishables. I’ve got some great deals meat and produce just by shopping their clearance products. Times/days vary, so check your store, and make sure to use or freeze the item so it doesn’t go bad on you. One of my favorite deals is the roasted chickens at my local Harris Teeter. Between 3 & 3:30 they mark down the chicken that was put out for the lunch crowd. It’s been kept hot, but is losing some of it’s freshness. Usually they’ll knock the price down to about $3. For a whole roast chicken?! Wow! That’s enough meat for 2 meals in my house. If I’m going past during the sale period I’ll grab one or two and head hope to de-bone them and pop the meat in the freezer.
  17. Know what you have on hand before shopping. This is particularly important when buying food with a short shelf-life. You don’t save money on a jar of peanut butter that goes rancid before you can use it. But be sure to have on hand the items you need to make the meals on your list from item #8.
  18. Get rain checks for sale items when they are out of stock
  19. Cut back on meat. Consider serving one meatless meal (at least) per week. We do meatless Mondays. My family hasn’t figured it out yet. Usually it will be soup and salad or breakfast for dinner. They enjoy the meal and don’t seem to realize there’s no meat. Well, unless and until they read this post!
  20. Drink more water. Soft drinks, juice, coffee, etc., can really cut into your grocery budget. And if you’re buying individual bottles of water, investigate other ways of getting drinkable water. I live in an area with great well water, yet I see people all over the place buying bottled water that tastes exactly like what comes out of the tap here. Yipes! I’ve lived in areas with really awful tap water; after filtering failed to produce anything remotely drinkable we bought two 5-gallon jugs and had them filled with purified water every other week. Consider scaling back on juice for the kids, too. Most of what is out there is flavored sugar-water with no nutritional value except for the added vitamin C (you may as well give them kool aid at that point). Even the latest “juices” by V-8 don’t have much in the way of nutritional value. And, for the record, I have two teen age boys who bounce between drinking iced tea (they make it), Kool-Aid (they make it) or soft drinks that they purchase with their own money. I don’t buy a lot of juice for them for the stated reason.
  21. Keep an eye on the cash register to make sure items scan correctly. It seems like every time I’m not paying close attention something scans wrong (either the product or the coupon), so I try to be aware. Item #2 helps with this. Many stores have an accuracy guarantee of some sort, and all will fix the problem if you bring it to their attention. Between humans and the computers, errors happen. Pay attention so you can get it fixed immediately. (I personally won’t drive back to the store because of a small error, time vs. money.)
  22. Avoid pre-packaged snacks. Individually-wrapped packages of cookies, crackers, cheese, etc. can be really convenient, but the per-unit prices for these items is astronomical compared to the cost of baggies or re-usable plastic dishes. Unless you’re getting the items free or nearly free by combining coupons and sales, just don’t buy them.
  23. Shop at no-frills stores. Stores like Aldi’s and bag-your-own stores have lower prices because their overhead is low. If your store has a walk-in cooler for beer, hardwood floors in it’s wine department, etc., they have to make up the money for all the extras somewhere, and they do — by having higher-than normal prices. Compare prices, couponing policies, locations, etc., to see what YOUR best options are.
  24. Make your own baby food. I had to throw this in there even though I haven’t had to make baby food in 16 years. The prices for those little jars is just crazy! Search the internet for recipes and techniques. Mostly it’s just a matter of pureeing mildly-seasoned “grown up” food. At 50 cents to a dollar a jar, you can save hundreds of dollars a month by making your own.
  25. Don’t waste food. Doesn’t get much simpler as a strategy. Make sure to use the food you buy before it goes bad. This goes for meat, dairy products, produce, baked goods, boxed goods like crackers. Everything. Use it up! All the other strategies are fairly pointless if in the end the food spoils without being eaten.

If you’re military or a military dependent…
Shop at the commissary!!! For the myriad of items that you won’t have coupons for, the commissary will save you 20%, easily, on the price of groceries. Make a big list and stock your pantry if it’s out of the way for you (closest one to me is 20 miles each way, I only go once a month). Using the commissary if you’re eligible is really a no-brainer.

I’d love to see some comments from readers about this list. Love it? Hate it? Disagree? More items? Other suggestions?

How to Save Money and Time on Shipping this Holiday Season (and throughout the year!)

With the holidays rapidly approaching you should already be giving thought to which gifts will need to be shipped. If done carelessly, shipping costs can end up higher than the cost of the item being shipped.

For budget-conscious gift givers, there are really only two carrier choices: the US Postal Service (USPS) and United Parcel Service (UPS).  They each have pros and cons. Both are simple to use, and relatively convenient. If your goal is to save money, you must stay away from any of the “pack & ship”–type stores. UPS stores we’ll discuss a little later.

Frugal shipping isn’t complicated; there are only three factors that you need to consider when your goal is to save money, they are: size and weight, distance, and speed.

1. Size and weight

If the item is very large and very heavy, UPS is very likely going to be your best bet. What is large? Anything over 130 inches in size (length + girth).

If the item is heavy for it’s size, but still small enough to fit into one of the USPS flat rate boxes, that will be your best deal.

Flat rate shipping boxes are shipped at three low prices2: $4.80, $9.85 or $13.50 for boxes weighing up to 70 pounds. The small flat rate box is 8-5/8″ x 5-3/8″ x 1-5/8″, medium flat rate boxes come in two sizes: 11″ x 8-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ & 11-7/8″ x 3-3/8″ x 13-5/8″, and the large flat rate box is 12″ x 12″ x 5-1/2″. Even if the item isn’t heavy and you want 2-day delivery3, the flat rate box offers an incredible deal. Keep in mind, though that the post office doesn’t actually guarantee 2-day delivery, so if it’s critical, this isn’t the choice for you! The one requirement for using the flat rate box is that you actually have to have a flat rate box on hand. From personal experience I’ve found they rarely have them available at the post office, so plan ahead and order some from the USPS Postal Store, they’re free and will be delivered to you.

Sending to someone in the military?

The Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box ships for $2.00 less when sent to an overseas APO or FPO address. Price is based on qualifying ZIP Code.

The cut-off date for Priority Mail to make it to APO/FPO addresses is December 11, 2009 for most zip codes4.

For more information see Sending Military Mail in Time for the Holidays.

You don’t actually have to have an official USPS box to use the priority mail service, only for the flat-rate service. Any sturdy cardboard box can be used. Priority Mail prices are based on weight and distance (except for the flat rate boxes).

2. Distance

Both the post office and UPS calculate shipping costs based on “zones” which is just a fancy way of determining how far the package has to go. Priority Mail flat rate boxes are exempt from the zone-based pricing, but regular priority mail pieces are subject to zone pricing.

3. Speed

How fast does it need to get there, or how long did you procrastinate the shopping, wrapping and packaging? Yes, you can get a package delivered overnight, but that’s not a frugal choice. Speed is the third factor the shippers use to calculate price. If you’ve got a week or so to allow for transit time, you will get the lowest price. As a general rule: Priority Mail is delivered in about 2 days, Parcel Post in 2-9 days, UPS Ground in 2-7 days. These aren’t hard and fast numbers, as distance, weather and demand all affect actual transit times.

What’s next?

Okay, you understand the basics. Now it’s time to package your item. The old fashioned method of wrapping a box in brown paper and tying it with string is a thing of the past; in fact, UPS won’t accepted packages prepared that way, and the post office may charge you extra for handling. What you need is a good sturdy cardboard box, some packing tape, and something to pad the contents (bubble wrap, packing peanuts, newspaper, etc.).

Where to get a good box

If you’re shipping in an official Flat-Rate Priority Mail box you just need to get one from the post office, or order some online. It takes about 5-10 days to get them delivered, so keep that in mind, and plan ahead. If all else fails, post a free “want” ad on Craigslist and you’re bound to find someone with some extras on hand.

The post office also has several other Priority Mail boxes, which are also free. They range in size from 6″ square boxes to shoe boxes, they even have tubes available for mailing posters. Once again, supplies at individual post offices may vary, so don’t procrastinate.

Remember, our goal is to save money here, so chances are you’ll need to find a box to re-use. Do NOT go out and buy one. There are free boxes everywhere! Better to re-use them than have them end up in a landfill anyway. Ask at work, ask your neighbors, ask the family who just moved in down the street (if you need a really big one). Grocery stores, retail stores, and restaurants all have a constant stream of boxes moving in and out of their business. (TIP: if you’re going to ask at a restaurant, don’t go in the middle of lunch or dinner.) Ask, ask, ask. (and don’t forget to say please and thank you!)

If your box has a bunch of markings on the outside it might make it difficult for the carrier to easily see the label. In that case your best bet is to turn the box inside out. If that presents a problem at least make sure that any barcodes and addresses have been blacked out with a permanent marker.

Using packing tape, secure one end of the box closed. Don’t cheap out on the tape, either. You don’t have to cover every edge, but make sure the box is well secured.

Packing Tape

Packing tape, is, well it’s packing tape. It’s not masking tape, it’s not cellophane tape, it’s not duct tape (though it will work!). You can get packing tape with or without reinforced threads; if you get plain, you will be able to tape over the labels when shipping UPS.

Now, using the packing material of your choice, put a layer of material on the bottom of the box for padding. (Keep in mind that newspaper is heavier than packing peanuts or bubble wrap, but it’s free, so…). Now that the bottom padding is in, load your wrapped gifts inside. Try to keep an inch or two of space between the items and the edge of the box for more padding material. Hundreds of thousands of boxes get transported around the world each day, and they do get dropped, banged and bumped, so make sure you’ve got a decent amount of padding. Once you’ve filled out the sides, add more padding to the top.

Now that your box is carefully packed, seal the top with more packing tape.

Weigh to Go

How you weigh your box will depend on how heavy it is and how big it is. UPS goes strictly by whole pounds here in the states, while the post office uses pounds and ounces.

If you have a small box you can weigh it on a postage scale or a food scale if you have one. You could take it to mail room at work and weigh it there (they’ll probably have a scale), or ask the cashier nicely wherever you buy your groceries if they’ll pop it on the scale for you and weigh it. Another option is to go into the self-service area of the post office and weigh it there.

saving money on shipping using a fish scale

For heavier boxes, or over-sized boxes, my clever husband thought of a unique solution. He bought me a digital fish scale. With this scale I either put the box in a plastic bag or rig it up with a piece of clothesline and hang it from the hook. It’s accurate and can be done by one person.

The other solution (for heavy boxes only) is to use an accurate bathroom scale. Weigh yourself without the box, then, weigh yourself with the box. The box weight is the difference. Using this method you’ll need someone else to read the scale, because chances are, you won’t be able to see the numbers on the scale while holding a large heavy box.

Okay, so the box is packed, sealed and you have an accurate weight. Now take a quick jaunt to the USPS website and the UPS website and use their “calculate postage” wizards to compare services and prices. Once you’re made that decision, buy your postage online, print it and affix your label to the box. The post office doesn’t want you to tape over the barcode, but UPS seems to prefer it.

Especially during the holiday season, buying your postage online will save you time, as well as money. Who needs to stand in line when everything you need is right there at your computer?

To save the most money on shipping with the post office, it is essential that you use the “Click-n-Ship®” service. The postage prices are about 14% less including the free delivery confirmation.

Wrapped and Ready

Now that your package is ready to go, you need to get it into the hands of the carriers. If it’s going UPS, you can give it to any UPS driver, or drop it off at a UPS customer counter or UPS Store™. For Priority Mail, you can request free pickup by the post office or you can give it to your carrier if you see them. If you’ve used “Click-N-Ship®” you can request carrier pick-up when printing your labels, or just put it into the self-service parcel bin at the post office. If it’s too big for the bin, look for a section of the counter where you can slide it over without waiting in line.

About The UPS Store

Many of these stores are operated by individual franchisees. They don’t make a whole lot of money on the shipping part of the deal, instead, making their money on the packing. Paying someone to package your items for shipping adds quite a bit of dough to the bill. But, if you have something delicate, and you’re not sure how to pack it safely, just shrug it off and pay for it. Even frugal old me paid UPS to pack a framed (with glass) print last year. And the packing cost more, much more, than the shipping. It really is a matter of time for money. If you have money, and don’t have time (well, you probably woudn’t have read this far) go for it, but if you’re like me and have more time than money, pack your boxes yourself. These convenient little stores have many other features, so don’t discount them completely. I needed something notarized, a few months back, and it was really convenient to stop by on my way home from grocery shopping. They also have copiers, specialty papers, mail boxes, etc.

Other things to consider:

  • Always compare the price of parcel post with priority mail – depending on the size & distance, the price difference to upgrade may be a small as a nickel.
  • Use the online shipping tools to save both time and money. You will need to register if you actually want to purchase postage online, but it’s fast and easy, and it makes shipping a breeze.
  • UPS’ prices include insurance; with the post office it’s extra, but still affordable. Always opt for insurance if what you are shipping is valuable.
  • UPS provides tracking numbers for all packages. The post office offers delivery confirmation (free if you buy your postage online, 70¢ extra if you pay at the counter). Delivery confirmation won’t tell you where a package is, just when it gets delivered.
  • Mondays and Fridays are the worst days to ship, with regard to standing in line. Ideally, you’ll purchase the postage online and be able to avoid ANY waiting.

Other resources:

USPS Postage Calculation Tool

USPS Measurement Tips

Price comparisons1,2,5,6

Weight 3 lbs 2 oz, Zip Origin 23322, Residential Delivery

Zip Code: 44026 Transit Time7 Zip Code: 72774 Transit Time7 Zip Code: 95726 Transit Time7
USPS Priority Mail 7.62 2 days3 9.78 2 days3 14.03 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– SMALL Flat Rate Box

4.80 2 days3 4.80 2 days3 4.80 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– MEDIUM Flat Rate Box

9.85 2 days3 9.85 2 days3 9.85 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– LARGE Flat Rate Box

13.50 2 days3 13.50 2 days3 13.50 2 days3
USPS Parcel Post 7.94 5 days 9.20 6 days 11.57 7 days
UPS Ground 10.38 2 days 14.33 3 days 16.18 5 days

Weight 8 lbs 14 oz, Zip Origin 23322, Residential Delivery

Zip Code: 44026 Transit Time7 Zip Code: 72774 Transit Time7 Zip Code: 95726 Transit Time7
USPS Priority Mail 13.04 2 days3 18.00 2 days3 26.30 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– SMALL Flat Rate Box

4.80 2 days3 4.80 2 days3 4.80 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– MEDIUM Flat Rate Box

9.85 2 days3 9.85 2 days3 9.85 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– LARGE Flat Rate Box

13.50 2 days3 13.50 2 days3 13.50 2 days3
USPS Parcel Post 11.24 5 days 12.55 6 days 15.90 7 days
UPS Ground 12.37 2 days 15.77 3 days 19.31 5 days

Weight 17 lbs 4 oz, Zip Origin 23322, Residential Delivery

Zip Code: 44026 Transit Time7 Zip Code: 72774 Transit Time7 Zip Code: 95726 Transit Time7
USPS Priority Mail 19.91 2 days3 27.35 2 days3 39.66 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– MEDIUM Flat Rate Box

9.85 2 days3 9.85 2 days3 9.85 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– LARGE Flat Rate Box

13.50 2 days3 13.50 2 days3 13.50 2 days3
USPS Parcel Post 14.60 5 days 15.99 6 days 23.76 7 days
UPS Ground 14.52 2 days 18.86 3 days 29.46 5 days

Weight 35 lbs, Zip Origin 23322, Residential Delivery

Zip Code: 44026 Transit Time7 Zip Code: 72774 Transit Time7 Zip Code: 95726 Transit Time7
USPS Priority Mail 29.81 2 days3 36.42 2 days3 63.29 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– MEDIUM Flat Rate Box

9.85 2 days3 9.85 2 days3 9.85 2 days3
USPS Priority Mail

– LARGE Flat Rate Box

13.50 2 days3 13.50 2 days3 13.50 2 days3
USPS Parcel Post 20.62 5 days 24.08 6 days 38.61 7 days
UPS Ground 22.54 2 days 29.06 3 days 49.67 5 days

1UPS Ground includes insurance up to $100, insurance from the post office starts at $1.75.

2 Prices for USPS Priority Mail are all for online “Click-n-Ship” postage purchases, prices at the post office will be higher! Parcel Post postage cannot be purchased online through usps.com.

3The 2-day transit is an ESTIMATE and is not guaranteed by the post office.

4Military Mail Addressed to APO/FPO AE ZIP 093 cut-off date is December 4th.

5Prices on this table are from November 2009, rates for shipping can be affected by the size of your box if it is oversized, and that is not being considered in these numbers.

6Flat rate prices assume contents will fit in the flat rate boxes.

7Transit time does not take into account non-work days for each carrier: add 2 days transit time for UPS and 1 day for USPS if your package will be in transit over the weekend.

The information shared in this article is current as of it’s writing. Opinions expressed are those of the author; readers are encouraged to use information in this article as a starting point for their own shipping experience.

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How much meat does a turkey yield?

The question of the ages, isn’t it?

Okay, maybe not. But I’d wondered in the past, so when I cooked up a turkey I bought at an after-the-holidays sale (49¢ a pound), I decided to find out.

My bird (a very large hen) weighed in frozen at 21.67 lbs.

I cooked this just for the meat, so once it was cooked, I put on my trusty, industrial, food-safe gloves and ripped the meat off while it was still reasonably hot (comes off MUCH easier that way).

I got 4 pounds, 5 oz. of breast meat and 3 lbs, 13 oz of dark meat (not completely dark, some of this was off the back, the wings, etc.)

So, the final tally: 8 lbs., 2 oz. cooked meat.

21.67*.49=$10.62 /8.125 lbs = which boils down to $1.31 per pound.

Always good to have a comparison. That way I’ll know a good price when I see it.

I wasn’t as frugal as I could have been. I didn’t even make turkey stock this time. We had several meals with the turkey and the rest was shredded, vacuum sealed and frozen.

Farm Fresh – 2/18 – double dollars and catalina deal

While this is not an amazing haul, it is worth mentioning. It’s a Wednesday, so Farm Fresh is doubling up to a dollar. They are also running a deal where, when you buy 10 products from a specific list (much like Kroger’s Mega Savings), you will get a catalina for $10 (a catalina is a coupon that prints out on the little machine next to the register, the company that makes the little printer is called Catalina).

I got a kick out of giving one of my teenage son’s friends a $1 off 2 Reese’s Whips coupon, and she was thrilled to get the 2 candy bars after only paying the sales tax of 3¢.

Much thanks to the folks that posted the deals they saw at HotCouponWorld. I probably would have blown the catalina deal off without them.

My shopping trip included some non-couponing items ($6 for 6 bottles of pop and $1 for a box of ziti (didn’t have my Mueller’s coupons with me!). My total at the register was $20.92. I got $10 back (the catalina didn’t print, so they gave me a gift card). The pop isn’t in the picture because I just didn’t feel like bringing it in the house yet. So, what’s pictured actually cost me $4.92.

$4.92 really CAN buy a lot.

$4.92 really CAN buy a lot.

The scary thing is that I’m not even all that impressed with this. $4.92 still actually feels HIGH to me.* For crying out loud, the regular retail of just the two Hershey’s Cacao bars is $5. LOL! The french bread was free using a coupon that prints out from the cash register asking you to do a phone survey. I always take advantage of those. Takes about 3 minutes.

The Fruit Sense juice was a total splurge ($0.89 of my total). The Hershey bars cost me (after doubling a dollar Q on each of them) 50 cents each. (another splurge I allow myself on my low-carb diet as it’s easy to limit myself to one square which only as 5 carbs).

The toothpaste was a “gimme”… the $1 off coupon was actually IN THE AD about an inch from the toothpaste with a price of $1.99 – double the coupon (on Wednesday) and it’s free. <smirk> This one’s going right into the “to donate to a homeless shelter” box.

One of the perks of today’s trip was being able to use my $5 off $50 coupon (6 of them in the local Entertainment coupon book). Since my initial total was over $50, that coupon came right off the top. Then all the other coupons.

This was good, and I really like the folks that work at Farm Fresh. They are always very helpful.

Stay tuned. Bloom is tripling this weekend!

* It is too high… But it is my fault. I bought 6 Warm Delights – 1 regular and 5 Minis which those rang up for $2.49 each instead of $1.50. That would explain why the catalina didn’t print, too. Lesson learned, it’s VERY important to make sure you’re getting the right item. I could probably exchange them, but then I wouldn’t have been over $50 to use my $5 off coupon, which is the difference in final price.

Saving even more money by using multiple coupons

If someone would have told me a year ago that I would eagerly collect 5 or 10 (or more) of ANY coupon, I would have thought they’d lost their marbles.

I just didn’t understand … yet. I’d never experienced the rush we get when we pay only pennies or even NOTHING for something that usually costs a couple bucks. I didn’t know how valuable coupons are, or know how satisfied I’d feel with an overflowing pantry.

Now multiply that concept. One can of Ro*tel for free is a very good thing, but 10 of them is AWESOME! Thus, the magic of multiples.

Multiples come from all sorts of places: newspaper inserts, internet printable (IP) coupons, and coupon generators like the Target Coupon Generator at HotCouponWorld.

One of the first things I do when I get the sales circulars is to head over to HotCouponWorld and access the Coupon Database. I can look up the sale items and see if there is a coupon available – either one I might have in my file box or one on the internet that I can print. I also use the HotCouponWorld Coupon Database about once a week to look IPs for products that I buy regularly – usually you can only print two of any one IP, so stocking up takes some time.

For instance: Kroger carries Cottonelle TP, regular 4-roll pack, for $0.99. There are rolling IP coupons, usually for $0.50 off one pack, which double to $1, making the TP free. It just makes sense to always have some of those IP coupons on hand so that when I head to Kroger I can restock my bathrooms.

With tools like coupons from the Target Coupon generator, combined with manufacturers coupons, you can find some great deals at your local Target. (Go here for more information on this week’s deals at Target.)

Click here for additional coupon resources including printables, pricebooks, and more.


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