I recently finished Girl with a Pearl Earring, another book read as a result of our lack of Internet and cable at home. It’s one of those books I’d sort of been meaning to read for a while, because I’d heard it was good, but I just never got around to it until now.

The story is a fictional idea of how Vermeer’s famous painting may have come to be. Author Tracy Chevalier does a nice job of putting together a story that is almost believable, particularly in that she does not over-glamorize the lives of the characters in the book.

The main character is Griet, who goes to work for the Vermeer family after her father is blinded in an accident and can no longer continue in his livelihood of painting tiles, which apparently was a common Dutch occupation at that time. At the age of 16, Griet must become the primary provider for her family – mother, father and little sister Agnes. Her brother, Frans, is apprenticed to a tile painter, learning his father’s trade.

Griet slowly acclimates to life with the Vermeers, learning to stay out of the way of the elder maid Tanneke (who is only 28 but has aged rapidly thanks to her years of servitude), to maintain the appearance of wanting to please her mistress Catharina and to be wary of the wise Maria Thins, the matriarch of the household.

That Griet is allowed into Vermeer’s painting studio to clean quickly becomes a point of contention with Catharina, and her position in the household seems constantly in peril – until Vermeer begins to use her as something of an assistant. The fact remains hidden from Catharina, and Griet, in her efforts to please her master, whom she feels a strange attraction and kinship to, works long hours to ensure all her chores are completed.

Through the two years in Griet’s life covered in the book, she undergoes many changes. Her sister dies from the plague after Griet has refused to speak to her in the marketplace; Griet carries this burden with her for the rest of her days. Frans runs away from his apprenticeship and is nowhere to be found. And Pieter, the son of the butcher the Vermeers use, becomes more and more interested in her, despite her efforts to deflect his attention.

The story eventually climaxes with Vermeer’s decision to paint Griet because one of his clients, a perverted man who can’t keep his hands to himself, requests a portrait of the “wide-eyed maid.” When Vermeer declares that Griet must wear his wife’s earrings in order for the portrait to be complete, she knows that she will lose her position, but she can’t say no to him.

The story resonates because it’s not a fairly tale by any means, and it feels like real life. There is suffering, disappointment, anger, hatred and so many other things. The characters don’t all come to a happy ending, but they come to a real ending. Chevalier did an admirable job of making a story that was a fictional account of a factual event into a believable tale. Grade: A-
CVS trip -- May 28, 2009
8:29 AM | Author: Misty
Yeah, the CVS trip ended up being a pretty big flop because I couldn't find some of the stuff. I got the Beggin Strips and the toothpaste, but that was it. I may try the CVS by where I work tomorrow.

The exciting news was that I got another $4 off coupon that I should be able to use at Publix!
Deals this week -- May 27, 2009
3:41 PM | Author: Misty
Sadly, this week doesn't look to be quite as good a grocery week as last week was, but the good news for me is that I'll only need to pick up a few things. I'm really aching to hit up the Tuscaloosa Farmers Market, but Bobby and I are going to have company this weekend (Chris and Allie are coming up for the Hillsong United concert Friday night), plus my small group is doing yard work Saturday morning for Ms. Annie.

Still, there are a few good deals I'm planning to take advantage of this week, and here they are.

Purina Beneful 3.5-lb. bag of dog food
BOGO @ $5.49 ($2.75 each)
Using 2 printable coupons for $3.50 off each from Give a Bowl
Total cost: FREE for 2 bags

Glad Plastic Wrap
Advantage Buy Sale price: $1
Using $1 off coupon found in Publix green summer flier
Total cost: FREE

Sale price: $2.50
Using $1 off printable Target coupon
Total cost: $1.50

Blueberries (to make the blueberry pie Bobby looooooooves -- I'll post a recipe and pics soon)
Sale price: $2.99
Total cost: $2.99

Sale price: $.99/lb.
Total cost: ~$2

Green beans
Sale price: $1.29/lb.
Total cost: ~$1.29

I've also heard that some Oral B toothbrushes may be on clearance at Publix, so I'm going to try to take advantage of that to get a free new toothbrush for Bobby. I have a $1 off coupon from Publix and a $.75 off manufacturer coupon I'm hoping to stack!

Transaction #1:
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunblock SPF 55 1 oz. (2)
Sale price: $1.99 each ($3.98 total)
Extra Care Bucks (ECB) to be received: $10
Total cost: $3.98

Transaction #2:
Colgate Total
Sale price: $2.99
Using $1 off manufacturer coupon
ECB to be received: $2

Gain Detergent
Sale price: $5.99
ECB to be received: $3

Acnefree Pockmark Filler (don't need -- just buying as filler/for ECB)
Sale price: $1.99 (if still available)
ECB to be received: $5

Total for Transaction #2: $10 (paid in $10 ECB from first transaction)
ECB earned for Transaction #2: $10

Transaction #3:
Speed Stick Pro Deodorant (for Bobby)
Sale price: $3.99
ECB to be received: $3.99

Purina Beggin' Strips
Sale price: $2.99
Using printable coupon for $3 off for getting a pet insurance quote (use code B3KCA)
Total cost: FREE

Filler - $1

Total for Transaction #3: $5 (paid in $5 ECB from previous transaction)
ECB earned for Transaction #3: $3.99

Total spent out-of-pocket at CVS: $3.98
Total ECB left after all purchases: $8.99

Of course, this may change if I can't find some of the items I'm looking for, but ideally this is everything I'll buy at CVS.

I don't have any current plans to make any further purchases at Target, but I may peruse the meat sales there. I'll make a post later in the week if I find any good deals!

I'll likely post an update after my shopping trip to detail how successful (or not) it was. This is really the first time I've worked at the CVS deals like this, and several of these items are good stock-ups for us, so I'm eager to see if it works out. If nothing else, I'll get free dog treats out of the deal!
We haven’t hooked up cable and Internet at the new house yet, and this has led to a dramatic increase in my offline reading. Seriously. We moved less than two weeks ago, and I’ve finished two books and started a third.

I want to start sharing some thoughts on the books I’m reading here, so this is the first book review installment.

The first book I finished in the new house was A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Thanks to Oprah and Frey’s aptitude for the not-so-little white lie, most of you are probably familiar.

I was skeptical. Going in, I knew that what I would be reading had been passed off as truth and revealed to be mostly made-up. Even so, I got lost in the story. The story is of Frey’s trip to rehab after nearly killing himself through drug and alcohol abuse. He wakes up on an airplane, not knowing how he got there, missing teeth and with sores and wounds galore. His family has sent for him, desperate, bringing him to a rehab center that will be his last chance.

The first half or so of the book is painful, because fact or fiction, it’s a look into the life of an addict. Frey portrays himself as angry, stubborn and woefully lost to substances that have taken over his entire life. He doesn’t remember chunks of time. He doesn’t remember the last morning he woke up and didn’t vomit.

Throughout, Frey displays resistance to the program the rehab center is attempting to help him through. He declares that he doesn’t want to substitute one addiction for another by looking to a “higher power” to help him. He breaks the rules by entering a relationship with a female patient, Lilly. But he manages to grasp on to the fragile remaining tendrils of a relationship with his family, learning to suppress a rage he has felt since he was a child and to accept and give love. He makes it through the program in his own way and with help from friends and family, sometimes unwelcome but wanted more often near the end of his time in rehab.

I can’t imagine a deeper look into the mind and life of an addict, and I don’t doubt that Frey struggled with a horrible addiction. The book also called attention to the fact that addictions aren’t just to drugs – they can be to anything.

In the end, though, I was disappointed that a story that asks for so much investment from the reader isn’t real at all. Frey casually includes a list at the end of the book of where the “characters” are now; more than half of them have died. It made me rather angry to read their information, knowing that Frey most likely defiled their memory by formulating interactions, relationships and possibly even entire people that never existed.

The book was well written and a good read, altogether, but I found I just couldn’t get past Frey’s dishonesty. Grade: C+
Grocery shop -- May 21, 2009
3:16 PM | Author: Misty
This week’s shopping trip was a VERY good one. Bobby and I had $40 budgeted, and so far I have spent $37.10. In order to help out somewhat with folks who are interested in how we are saving, I’m trying to include detailed info about the coupons I used and the sales I took advantage of.

Here’s what we got:

Lays Wavy Potato Chips
2 packages
Buy one, get one free (BOGO) at $3.49
Used $4 CVS Extra Care Bucks coupon from previous visit, so total was $0.
(**CVS Extra Care Bucks is an incentive program. You fill out paperwork, get a CVS discount card for free, then when you buy certain advertised products, you get coupons for dollars off your next purchase. You will also save money on other items with the card and get other coupons that print out from the register, including ones like I got today: $4 off a $20 – which I have been able to use as a competitor coupon at Publix.)

Publix Cola (4)
On sale for $.50 each
Total: $2

Cole’s Bread Sticks/Garlic Toast (2)
BOGO at $2.79
Used two $.50 off coupons from http://www.coles.com/promotions/coupons/
Total: $.79 for 2 (~$.40 each)

Gallon of Publix Milk
On sale for $2.89
Total: $2.89

1 lb. Filet Mignon steaks
On sale for $10.19/lb.
Total: $10.19

18 lb. Kingsford Charcoal Bricks
On sale for $6.99
Used $3 in-store coupon from Summer is Here booklet
Total: $3.99

KFC Masterpiece BBQ sauce
Regular price: $1.50
Used manufacturer coupon from newspaper: Buy Kingsford Charcoal, get BBQ sauce free
Total: FREE

Pork sirloin cutlets
Regular price: $5.63
Used $6 off pork when you buy Kingsford Charcoal, KFC BBQ sauce at http://www.gatherroundthegrill.com/coupon.php?store=publix
Total: FREE

Mueller dry pasta (6 boxes)
BOGO at $1.29
Used $1 off 3 printable coupon at http://pastavalue.com/
Total: $1.87 for 6 (~$.31 each)

Betty Crocker Premium Brownie Mix (2)
BOGO at $2.55
Used printable coupon for $.50 off two at http://www.boxtops4education.com/Coupons/ (coupon doubled to make it $1 off total)
Total: $1.55 for 2 (~$.74 each)

Bush’s Baked Beans (the medium-sized cans) (2)
BOGO at $2.29
Total: $2.29 (~$1.15 each)

Kraft BBQ sauce (2)
BOGO at $1.49
Used two $1 printable coupons at coupons.com
Total: FREE for 2

Near East Couscous (2)
BOGO at $2.19
Total: $2.19 for 2 (~$1.15 each)

Glade Plug-In Gel Warmer
Regular price: $1.99
Used FREE manufacturer coupon from newspaper
Total: FREE

Pedigree Dentastix Dog treats (2)
BOGO at $3.79
Used two printable $2.50 off coupons at http://bricks.coupons.com/Start.asp?tqnm=qejmben23179706&bt=vg&o=56364&c=DS&p=v9h5sFj0&zjxj=01500004W2260966W979W0
Total: FREE for 2

5-lb. Red Potatoes
On sale for $2.99
Total: $2.99

Heluva Good Dip (4)
BOGO at $2
Used four printable coupons for $.50 at http://bricks.coupons.com/Start.asp?tqnm=qa5jbpx46531918&bt=wg&o=55121&c=HP&p=vqyJiFtU – coupons doubled, making it $1 off each
Total: FREE for 4

Kraft Singles American Cheese (2)
BOGO at $2.59 (and I actually just realized I bought the wrong kind and paid $6.98 instead of $2.59 – called Publix, and they said I can swap it!)
Used $1 off 2 printable coupon at coupons.com
Total: $1.59 for 2 (~$.79 each)

Cover Girl lip gloss
Regular price: $3.59
Used $2 off coupon from Publix Green Health and Beauty Flyer, $2 manufacturer coupon from newspaper
Total: FREE

14 lb. Tidy Cat litter (3)
BOGO at $6.99
Used three $2 peel-off coupons available on Tidy Cat containers in-store
Total: $4.49 for 3 (~$1.50 each)

Publix Hot Dog Buns
On sale for $.99
Used printable $.50 off coupon from Target.com (does not double)
Total: $.49

Publix White Bread
Regular price: $1.17
Total: $1.17

I also used a printable Wal-Green’s coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase and a CVS coupon that I got at the CVS register for $4 off a $20 purchase for a total of $9 extra off.

Total shelf price of all groceries: $137.22
Total paid: $32.31
Total amount saved: $104.89
Becoming a saver -- May 21, 2009
2:29 PM | Author: Misty
OK, I’ve had several people ask me how in the world I’m saving so much money on groceries these days, so I wanted to do a slightly more detailed blog post on this week’s spending.

First off, I don’t think I could save what I have been without the help of sites like www.fiddledeedeemom.com, http://attentiontargetshoppers.blogspot.com and www.publix4pennies.com. I especially love the Publix 4 Pennies site because it not only tells me about the sales and coupons, it also lets me select the items I want to create a printable shopping list.

Another thing those reading should know is that I do most of my shopping at Publix, with supplemental trips to CVS and Target. Publix accepts manufacturer coupons (the kinds you can find in a newspaper or print online), competitor coupons (such as printable online grocery coupons from Target) and in-store coupons (these are usually found in the magazines and sales papers at the front of Publix, right when you walk through the door). I try to buy things that are on sale, especially buy-one-get-one-free, which Publix has a lot of.

Something to remember about buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) items: You can use a manufacturer coupon on both. So if I wanted to buy two packs of crackers that were BOGO and had two coupons for $1 off one pack of those crackers, I could use both those coupons to get a total of $2 off.

Publix also will stack one of each type of the aforementioned coupons, so you can use up to three coupons on each item. On those BOGO crackers, in addition to the manufacturer coupons, if I had a Target printed coupon for $1 off each pack and an in-store coupon for $1 off each pack, I could stack all the coupons (6 total) and get $3 off each pack of crackers.

Keep in mind that not all Publix stores will take competitor coupons because it is generally at the discretion of the manager. Many Publix stores also double coupons up to $.50 (for some reason, though, none of the Florida stores do), so when you are using small-value coupons, keep in mind that they will double when you are figuring out your grocery budget.

Beyond knowing how the system works and figuring out where to get coupons, the biggest thing for me is just making some time to sit down and plan out my shopping trip. The Publix 4 Pennies site helps greatly with this, but I also usually sit down with the Publix weekly ad (which comes out on Wednesdays) to start my planning. I probably spend a couple of hours a week figuring out what I will buy and how much I will spend. The good news is that this is helping lower our monthly grocery budget. This week, as opposed to budgeting $75, I budgeted $40 – so far so good. See my next post for the details on the shopping trip.
Well, we’re at least partly in the new house and loving it so far!

Bobby and I signed our papers Friday morning bright and early, and I was lucky enough to get the day off work, so we quickly set about moving our bed and some of the boxes we’d packed up. Over the course of last weekend we managed to get nearly all our kitchen supplies and food, about half our clothes and most of the small stuff (photo albums, books, DVDs, etc.) from the living room.

The moving was tedious with just the two of us doing the first stretch (we have people coming to help with furniture and everything else that’s left this weekend), but I was proud of all we got done. We unpacked most of what we could and are looking forward to getting completely moved in.

On Sunday friends from our church small group came and helped us paint! We had picked out our colors Friday and picked them up at Wal-Mart on Sunday right after church. We went with “casual blue” for the living room, “almond” something-or-other for the hallway and “citrus spice” for the spare bedroom. We left all the other rooms the same.

Funnily enough, I think the most drastic improvement was in the hallway, which Stephen and Susanna took primary responsibility for. They seriously went all out and did two coats over the old wall, which was a drab off-white/gray color with these odd box-shaped designs. The difference makes the hallway look much lighter and bigger.

Ashley, Benji, Megan, Ryan, Bobby and I tackled the living room and knocked it out pretty quickly. It’s a bright, calm blue, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I think it’ll look even better once we get our couches in. It also lightens the room up a bit, whereas the previous off-white color was just pretty boring and uninviting.

Everyone except Megan and Ryan had to leave as the afternoon wore on, but they were able to hang around and help us finish up the bedroom. The citrus spice color is a really nice yellow with some orange-y tones; it’s a happy color and a nice fit for this bedroom. We’re planning to use it as an office/library, and I’m actually looking forward to spending time in there because the color makes me feel good and warm.

I really can’t express how much Bobby and I appreciated having that much help with painting, because we know it would have probably taken us AT LEAST three times as long to do it by ourselves. We felt so loved and cared for because these folks took their Sunday afternoon (a time when most people are napping) and spent it helping us just because we needed help and they’re our friends. It’s a nice feeling.

Now we’ve been in the house for almost a week, and we are all starting to get used to it. Ranger and Rosie love the backyard, and they’re completely exhausted (but also very stinky, unfortunately) when we bring them in at night. Nom Nom likes having more space to explore. After a few days of not sleeping well thanks to the new surroundings, Bobby and I are setting in, too.

Some friends are also coming this weekend to help us get our furniture moved in, as I mentioned previously. I’m really happy to have the help and excited to grill out afterward! I picked up some baked beans, chips, dip, brownies and sodas to share and am also planning to buy a watermelon. It’ll make for a fun first Memorial Day weekend in the new house, and I’d imagine the combination of visiting friends, grilled food, laughter, sunshine (hopefully) and finally having all our stuff moved will really make it feel like home.

Here are a couple of pics from painting. The first is Megan painting in the living room, and the second is Bobby and me making our first roll in the hallway. You can sort of see the before and after effect there. I don't have pictures of the bedroom/study yet, but I'll take some soon!

My Target haul - May 13, 2009
1:33 PM | Author: Misty
Just hit up Target for some freakin' sweet deals! Here's what I brought home:

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers 2-pack (2) - $4.98 - BOGO coupon = $2.49

100-Calorie Packs (3) - $6.12 - $3 Target coupons - $3 manufacturer coupons = $.12

Triscuits (2) - $4.08 - $1 Target coupon - $2 manufacturer coupons = $1.08

Simple Harvest granola bars - $2.74 - $1 Target coupon - $1 manufacturer coupon = $.74

Kraft dressing (2) - $3.28 (on sale) - $1 Target coupon - $2 manufacturer coupon = $.28

1 lb. Ground sirloin - $3.99 - $1.50 Target coupon = $2.49

Gold'n Plump 20 oz. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (2) - $6.98 (on sale) - $2 Target coupons - $3 manufacturer coupons = $1.98

Gold'n Plump Family-Size Chicken Drumsticks - $5.99 (on sale) - $2 Target coupon - $1.50 manufacturer coupon = $2.49

2-Liter Diet Dr. Pepper (5) - $8.45 - $7.95 manufacturer coupons = $.50

20-oz. Diet Dr. Pepper (this was filler) - $1.49

Total shelf price: $60.04 - $5 off $50 Target coupon
Total out-of-pocket: $13.60
Total saved: $46.44 (about 77%)
So I'm really getting into this saving money thing! I've had fun this week planning out my list and getting together coupons and figuring out the best deals, and I think I did really well. I have shopped at CVS, Wal-Mart and Publix so far. Here's what I got at Publix:

Hotdog buns - $1.15
White bread - $1.17
Pineapple - $2.99 - $.75 printable coupon = $2.24
Cubed steak - $2.09 (on sale)
Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter with Honey - $2.99 - $.35 coupon DOUBLED = $2.29
Cascadian Farm granola bars - $2 (on sale) - $1 printable coupon = $1
Red grapes - $2.67 (on sale)
Sour cream - $.99 - $.50 coupon DOUBLED = FREE
Cream of Tartar - $2.69 - $1 coupon = $1.69
White corn (2 - fresh) - $.50 (on sale)
Baby carrots - $.85 (on sale)
Bacon-wrapped scallops - $4 (on sale)
Hebrew National jumbo franks - $2.50 (on sale) - 1 = $1.50
Oscar Mayer lunch meat (2) - $6 - $1 Target printable coupon = $5
Keebler Chocolate Lovers cookies - $1.99 - $1 printable coupon = $.99
Green Giant Green Bean Casserole - $1 - $.50 printable coupon DOUBLED = FREE
Green Giant Broccoli and Cheese - $1 - $.50 printable coupon DOUBLED = FREE
Milk - $2.29
Stouffer's Grandma's Chicken family  meal - $3.99 (on sale)
Post Trail Mix Crunch cereal - $2.10 - $2 printable coupon = $.10
Gravy mix - $.49 (on sale)
Publix premium ice cream (Chocolate Trinity, YUM) - $2.50 (on sale)

Then in addition, I had a $4 off a $20 purchase coupon from CVS. Because Publix accepts competitor's coupons, they accepted this one (though they are sometimes iffy about the $ off total purchase ones).

Total out of pocket: $35.65
Total value of products purchased: $77.75
Total amount saved: $42.10!!

I went to CVS during my lunch break today because I've been reading a lot about their Extra Care Bucks program. Here's what I came up with:

Transaction #1:
12-pack of Coke Zero (3) - $12 (on sale) - $3 printable coupons = $9
Vitamin Water 10 (6) - $8 - $5.50 coupons = $2.50

Total for transaction #1: $13.31
ECB earned: $10

Transaction #2:
Kellogg's Cereals (3) - $10 - $3 printable coupons = $7
Toothbrush - $2.99 (on sale)

Total for transaction (after applying $10 ECB): $.28
Additional ECB earned: $7

I walked out of the store with three 6-packs of Coke, three boxes of cereal, six Vitamin Water 20 oz. drinks, a new toothbrush, $7 toward a future CVS purchase, a $4 off coupon that I was able to use at Publix and a coupon for a $25 gift card if I fill a prescription at CVS. My grand total at CVS was $13.58. But part of that comes from my personal money for the month because I bought the Cokes to keep in my office.

Grocery total for CVS: $7.58
Non-grocery total for CVS: $6
Total out of pocket: $13.58
Total value of stuff bought: $46.24
Total saved: $32.66 (plus I still have $7 in ECB)

My purchases at Wal-Mart are a little more difficult to quantify as far as savings, because Wal-Mart doesn't provide that info. Here they are anyway:

Cheese crackers - $2 (on sale) - $1 coupon = $1
Purina 7lb cat chow - $6.98 - $1 coupon = $5.98
Angel hair pasta - $.74 ($.45 cheaper than Publix)
Centrum vitamins - $9.97 - $2 coupon = $7.97
Mac & Cheese crackers - $1 (on sale)
Garlic salt - $1.04
1/2 dozen eggs - $.52

Grocery total: $20.25
Approximate value of items: $28.70
Approximate amount saved: $8.45

Cake pan - $9.97 (doesn't count against grocery budget)
Mother's Day cards (2) - $.88 (don't count against grocery budget)

Non-grocery total: $11.83

Total spent for groceries: $63.48
Total budgeted: $75
Total value of all grocery items purchased: ~$152.69
Grand total saved: $89.21

That's a savings of about 59%!!

I am very proud to be $11.52 below our grocery budget for this week! This is the first time this has happened since we've been married, and it definitely won't be the last!
Online coupons -- May 2, 2009
11:15 PM | Author: Misty
I forgot to mention in my last post, but there are a few places I go when I'm looking for online coupons. I usually check the Slickdeals forums first because it's pretty easy to search for what I want. There's also Coupon Bug and SmartSource, among others. Target usually has some good printable coupons on its site, too, and as I mentioned, I was able to use one of these at my local Publix today.
Being a cheapskate - May 2, 2009
10:53 PM | Author: Misty
So a while back I went through this phase where I was really into coupons and saving money when I was grocery shopping, and thanks to reading some friends' (Chrishtan, Jana, Lauren) blogs about how they are trying to save money, I am back in the game!

I checked out The Grocery Game after reading about it on the first two of the previously mentioned blogs, then Lauren also mentioned it in her blog! So apparently it's a pretty popular site (or we all read each others blogs). The concept is pretty cool. Basically someone has found a way to compile a shopping list of all the sales from the stores in a given zip code. So, for example, for Northport, I am provided with a list for Publix, Wal-Mart, CVS, Winn Dixie and Walgreen's. The list not only includes in-store sales, it also includes coupons that have either been available in the newspaper, in-store or online that can make the sale an even sweeter deal. The first four weeks are $1 and after that it's (I think) $10/month for a single store's list. As Lauren pointed out in her post about this, it does seem a bit silly to pay for info that could easily be attained with a little legwork. The nice thing about the site is that it basically puts together my grocery list, and I can take off things I don't want before I print. It also makes it easier to find coupons for the items already on sale.

I went grocery shopping for the first time today since joining the site, and I guess I have mixed feelings about it. I think the site helped some, but I also was able to pick up a Publix sale paper and primarily made my final list from that and the coupons I had on hand. I had a pretty decent stockpile from a few weeks of newspapers, in-store Publix coupons and the Internet. I also found out that some Publix stores will accept a competitor's coupon for a specific item; today I was able to use a coupon I printed on Target.com to get $1 off a box of 100-calorie packs (which became a pretty sweet deal -- $.99 after the sale price + coupon!). From what I understand, though, not all Publix stores do this, but at the ones that do, you can usually stack a manufacturer coupon, an in-store coupon and a competitor coupon for a really good deal, if you happen to have all three.

All in all, I think I did pretty well. I spent $85 total and saved $50 total (coupons and sale prices) on a week's worth of groceries for Bobby and me. I was able to get good fruits and veggies (2 ears of corn for $.50, a bag of carrots for $1.50, a bag salad for $.79, strawberries for $2.50, a bag of about 10 Fuji apples for $2.50 -- and a few other things) and meats (Polish sausage, a family pack of pork chops that we'll freeze part of, pot roast and hamburger meat), and those were probably the items I spent the most on. We got three boxes of cereal (buy 2, get 1 free + $.55 cent off coupon for Lucky Charms) and a free gallon of milk with those, thanks to a coupon in the Publix sale paper. I also snagged toilet paper and cat litter at low prices thanks to coupons. Oh, yeah, and I had a very nice $5 off coupon that Publix sent out with its mailer last week.

It took more effort, but saving $50 in one trip to the grocery store feels really good. I also feel like once I get the hang of "being a cheapskate" and figuring out how best to work the system to save the most money, I will be able to see even bigger savings on some trips!