Rebecca Miller
The Sandwiched Homeschooler

Do Not Get Discouraged When You First Start Using Coupons
January 28, 2014

A lot of times new coupon users get frustrated because they are not saving 90% on their shopping trips. For those who have been to one of our local coupon get togethers, you’ll know that I emphasize several things; and for those who have not been to one of my local coupon get togethers, I’ll share with you what I share with them!

(1) First and foremost you have to change how you think about buying groceries. You can’t go to the store with a “what are we going to eat tonight” kind of thinking.  You buy primarily according to what is on sale, and stock up on those items.  Eventually, aside from things like bread, eggs and milk (although other folks have success at freezing them), you’ll pick “what are going to have for dinner tonight” from your stockpile of items (in your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer) while primarily shopping to replace those item you just used when they are on sale again.

(2) Brand loyalty is difficulty to follow if you are going to try save the most money for your family that you can, because you are going to buy whichever shampoo or detergent or canned vegetables that are on sale at the time. Now, some folks must have brand loyalty or brand avoidance due to allergies, or something of that nature, and for those folks, at least in my local coupon group we try to channel our extra coupons to them because they really need to buy a lot of those items when they do go on sale.  (That’s another reason why it’s nice to be in a local coupon group so that you share your coupons with others.

(3) Make saving 50% on your groceries your goal.  We have a local grocery store that frequently includes Buy 1 Get 1 (B1G1, BOGO) in their weekly ads.  They are a great way to start saving money and here’s why: if you primarily shop for the B1G1 items you are already at 50%; however, you will encounter items that you don’t have coupons for–and those items are then offset by the coupons that you do have for the B1G1 items and other items that you are purchasing.

(4) Rain checks are your best friend. (How many times have I said that?!) Don’t get frustrated when the store is out of the items that you want to purchase, just ask for a rain check.  A rain check is to your benefit because on occasion, better coupons come out for the product that you’re holding a rain check for or you have time to gather coupons (via trading, for example) to use with your rain checks to lower your cost for your groceries.

(5) Remember that building your stockpile of items will not happen overnight.  However, keeping a good eye out for clearance items can help you to quickly stock up on items such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, razors, shaving cream, and deodorant.  Many times these items are stockpiled so quickly that coupon users have a tendency to donate these items to shelters and other various organization.

(6) Join a coupon group–or several–that is active with posting about the sales in your area.  Many times these groups will also post the coupons that they used with that particular sale and that will help to cut down on the time you spend searching for the coupons to go with that sale in your inserts.  Also, joining a local coupon group will save you from trading coupons with folks in the mail (and waiting and hoping for the coupons to arrive before the sale ends), as you can meet up with another coupon users that same day and close to where you live.  (I don’t suggest meeting at homes, but rather meeting at public places to exchange coupons, such as a grocery store or the library.  Safety first.)

(7) Make your own stockpile of items for your family based on what your family uses, and not necessarily because it’s a “good deal”.  I’m all for trying a new kind of frozen entree because the price is right, but there’s really no point of continuing to buy them if no one in the house likes them and will eat them.  You’ll load up your freezer, refrigerator and storage spaces with items that are just going to sit there forever…or at least until they expire and are thrown out…and that’s just a waste.  On the other hand, using coupons have afforded me to buying (and trying) items that I would have never tried before because I couldn’t afford it…including a lot of name brand items.

Previously, I focused on buying generic because it was less expensive.  But I’ve since realized that I can buy quite a few name brand items for less than what I could buy the generic equivalent.  Let me give you an example: 2-Liter store brand soda cost $0.99/bottle.  Pepsi or Coke is $1.98/bottle.  Looking at that, it’s a no-brainer that the generic is the choice.  However, when the Pepsi or Coke is B1G1 that week (making them $0.99/each) and adding a manufacturer $0.25/1 coupon to the brand item, it is now less expensive than it’s generic equivalent.  And depending on your store’s policy (if you can use a manufacturer coupon on the B1 AND the G1 item), you might save even more on the brand item.

(8) Read.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  When you join an online coupon group take a few minutes to read the recent posts.  Odds are someone else has just asked a similar question about the sale item that you’re wondering about and no one wants to read the same question being posted over and over again.  Coupon users like to help each other out; but, because like most homeschooling parents, coupon users value their time, they don’t like to answer the same question over and over in a short amount of time.

So, I hope that this helps some homeschooling folks who are new to using coupons some encouragement and guidance so that you don’t get discouraged or frustrated and quit using them. It just take a little time to build up your stock piles and then you’ll find that you’re just buying to replace items–and getting them on sale–instead of paying full price for those items.

Respectfully,
Rebecca Miller
The Sandwiched Homeschooler

Homeschooling and Using Coupons

January 27, 2014 | Homeschooling and Coupons  |  Comments Off

Rebecca Miller
The Sandwiched Homeschooler

Homeschooling and Using Coupons
January 27, 2014

When I talk to homeschooling parents about using coupons when they grocery shop, quite a few of them will tell me that they “don’t have time” to sit around cutting coupons.  And, in the next breath, they usually tell me how tight money is for their family–especially those with one income.

I get it.  I really do.  On both accounts.

For years I went in a lot of directions; and the thought of adding one more thing to do to my plate was an overwhelming feeling.  And since the beginning of our homeschooling journey nearly 13 years ago we have been an essentially one-income family.

However, in hindsight, I’m sorry that I didn’t exchange something else on my plate with using coupons.  Trips to the park, weekly co-ops, kids activities, and even online support communities are nice, but they don’t help me to save money…they usually costed me money.  And when my husband’s job status changed last year, and we hit rock bottom with the amount he made with his new job vs. the amount of money that needed to go to try to pay our bills, it was the use of coupons that kept us going.

And as homeschooling families we pride ourselves on the fact that our kids have learning opportunities 24/7…our world is our classroom, so to speak.  I can’t tell you how many blog posts that I’ve read over years emphasizing that math can be done in the kitchen: fractions with cooking measurements; or science with rubber eggs, rock candy, and ice cream.  The list goes on.  We both know that it does.   So why not include coupon use as part of the learning process and get the kids involved with it?

From the time that a child can properly use scissors, s/he can be instructed on which coupon to look for and cut out.  Make a game out of it, or award the child with the best clipped coupons with a treat.  Not only will this help with dexterity, but it’s helping you to cut the coupons that you want to use.  This is also a good way to help your child to learn to recognize items and words.  Keep the game going in the grocery store with involving your child to help look for those items.

Older kids are a benefit with shopping.  I divide up our list and the kids help me to find the items.  Most of that help falls on my youngest son at the moment because my oldest son is working two part-time jobs with a varied schedule.  Eventually the kids are going to move out and they need to have an idea of how to grocery shop…and getting in the habit of using coupons to save money will only benefit them in the end also.  I’ve found that since I’ve involved my kids with using coupons to grocery shop, they are now also looking at ways of saving money when it comes to buying their clothes, their gas, and their meals outside of the house.

Several times my kids have pointed out to me better saving opportunities on a shopping trip than I had planned.  And that feels good.  It means that they’re learning, they’re thinking and they’re participating to help our family.

Because I do not work outside of the family, I keep my shopping receipts for a week and then total up the savings.  Some weeks I’ve managed to save between $100-$200 on our groceries.  That’s the equivalent of earnings for a part-time job outside of our house, only with  the benefit of not leaving my house and being able to continue to spend time with my kids.   And those savings have been able to be channeled in other areas that it’s desperately needed, like the car insurance payment!

So, if you’re not using coupons when you grocery shop,  I really encourage you to try it.

Get involved with a local coupon club–even if it’s only online–and find some guidance on how to get started.

Respectfully,
Rebecca Miller
The Sandwiched Homeschooler

I’m transitioning. I’m stuck in limbo.

January 16, 2014 | Homeschool Support  |  Comments Off

Rebecca Miller
The Sandwiched Homeschooler
January 15, 2014

It’s been some time since I have posted on my blog; and for that, I must apologize.

You see, I’m transitioning.  I’m stuck in limbo.

My oldest son graduated from homeschooling in May of 2013; and my youngest son opted to stay in high school for one more year–to complete a little more dual enrollment, which he did the first semester of the college’s calendar year.  This semester, his last I imagine, he opted to work on a math course from Switched on Schoolhouse.  So this semester will be the easiest semester of whole educational experience.

Regardless of whether he’s utilizing the Switched On Schoolhouse course, or dual enrollment at the college, my time of being directly active with his homeschooling has come to an end.

And that brings me back to the beginning of this post: I’m transitioning.  I’m stuck in limbo.

I keep trying to figure out how I am going to stay active within the homeschooling community, and this is what I have determined so far:  I will keep open several of my largest and/or most active Yahoo! homeschooling groups.  The others, due to the recent changes from Yahoo! with their groups, and my difficulty with accesing them as a result, will be closed.  That means approximately 200-300 homeschooling groups will close.  But I’ll give the members of those groups direction for other similar groups that they will be welcomed to join.

And that’s it.  That’s all that I’ve been able to determine.

I haven’t been able to figure out a way to transition this blog into a who and what I am now: a retired homeschooling parent.  I’ve considered continuing to write on my blog, but wondered what to write about.  There haven’t been a lot comments or questions on my blog, nor on the correlating Facebook page, that gives me a jump start of things to write about.  And I’m not active in co-ops or park days to talk to parents (or kids) about what they’d have an interest in reading about–what difficulties they’re having, and the like.

Publix10January2014In the last couple of months I’ve really blossomed in the area of using coupons with my grocery shopping.  Since I’ve now had an opportunity to “have some time for myself”, I’ve started a local coupon group; and as of this date, there are 150 families who are members.  Several of us meet weekly; and it reminds of weekly homeschooling activities–which is perhaps why I enjoy it so much.

I paid $30 for almost $126 dollars worth of groceries.   My state does NOT double coupons.

15 January 2014’s shopping trip: I paid $30 for almost $126 dollars worth of groceries. My state does NOT double coupons.

I’ve tried to think of how I can incorporate my use of coupons into part of this blog’s transition; and if you can think of a way, I’d sure like to hear it.

I do so appreciate all of the loyal followers on Facebook who have continued to check in with me there–all 1,680 of you.  Thank you for staying even though I have been quiet on here.

My husband has a taken a job at a towing company, and I also now help to oversee their page.  My knowledge of the towing and recovery industry was minimal; but as a homeschooling family we encouraged our children to seek learning in all things–and I am doing the same for the management of the towing page.  I am reading and reading about it quite a bit.  I’ve also gone on several tow calls and transports with my husband–research, I call it. I make memes for the tow page, which I enjoy; and I often think that I wish I would have done the same for the homeschooling community.  There were many a homeschooling day that I am sure I could have made a meme which many other parents and/or kids would have appreciated (and understood).

So, that it.  That’s where I am:  I’m transitioning.  I’m stuck in limbo.  And when I know more about what’s going on with this blog, you’ll be the first to know.

Until then, and as always, I wish you happy homeschooling.

Respectfully,
Rebecca Miller
The Sandwiched Homeschooler

Book Review: Our America….The Pilgrim Adventure

September 7, 2013 | Book Review  |  Comments Off

By: Rebecca Miller
The Sandwiched Homeschooler

Book Review:  Our America….The Pilgrim Adventure
August 29, 2013

Book Title: Our America….The Pilgrim Adventure

Author: Susan Kilbride

Notes: This book series is recommended for ages 10 and up.

Book overview: The Our America Series focuses on eleven year old twins, Finn and Ginny, who travel back in time to different locations while searching for their parents.  Finn and Ginny’s parents accidentally used their Uncle Peter’s time machine and now the kids do the same—with their first adventure starting with the Pilgrims.

Other books in this series (which are in published in historical order) include:

v Our America….The King Philip’s War Adventure (Volume 2)

v Our America….The Salem Adventure (Volume 3)

Our America….The Pilgrims is an enjoyable and interesting book for upper elementary level children to read.  Many kids enjoy learning and reading about the Pilgrims, the First Thanksgiving, and Squanto—and this book would be a welcomed addition to any collection on these topics, especially because this book includes information about actual folks from that time period.

Aside from a story that includes history, this book will also provide teaching moments to compare and contrast living conditions for the children of the Pilgrim’s time period and the children of today:

“…As he dozed in and out of an uncomfortable sleep that night, Finn tried to imagine how his friends from the future and their families would handle the same situations that the Pilgrims had found themselves in.  How would modern-day families, used to computers, TV, and all of the comforts of the modern world, deal with no food, no shelter, no electricity, and Indian attacks?”  –pg. 73

This book will also expose children to some of the vocabulary utilized during this time period:
“…The space between the studs was woven with flexible sticks called “wattle,” which was covered with a mixture of clay, earth, and grass called “daub.” –pg. 74

This book concludes with a Historical Notes section and some personal information about the author’s interest in this time period.

When I finished reading this book, I realized that I had many incorrect preconceived notions about the Pilgrims and the Indians—especially those relating to Squanto.  I wish that during my youth the books available in our school library had been more historically accurate, while being able to remain engaging to the reader, as this book accomplishes.

This book can be purchased in paperback (link) or Kindle (link).
Overall assessment:
Content: 5/5
Editing: 4/5
Formatting: 5/5
Pacing: 5/5
Offensive content: None. G rated

Bonus: Should you purchase this book, Ms. Kilbride has provided a free companion unit study for this book at her website: http://funtasticunitstudies.com/

Recommend/Not Recommend: Would I recommend this read? Yes.

I would like to thank Ms. Kilbride for providing me with another opportunity to write a review for one of her published books.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book directly from the author. I did not receive any payment in exchange for this review, nor was I obliged to write a positive one. I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Rebecca Miller
The Sandwiched Homeschooler

An Open Letter to Yahoo! from an Owner/ Moderator using the Recently Launched Neo Groups
September 5, 2013

I have had a lot of Yahoo! groups since 2008—probably well over 300 groups. I have one homeschooling group in each state, so that’s at least 50 groups.  I have groups for homeschooling upper grades, homeschooling lower grades, homeschooling middle grades, homeschooling several grades, homeschooling boys, homeschooling girls, homeschooling in Florida, homeschooling styles, homeschooling philosophies, secular, Christian, all-inclusive, buying & selling curricula and many, many more—but I think you get the idea. And if you don’t, you can view a complete listing of my groups, although it will need to be updated to note my recently deleted groups.

As noted, most of the groups are relating to homeschool/homeschooling, while there are some for parenting, Mommy groups, and all-inclusive to (all) educators: public, private, and homeschooling.  They have been maintained and almost completely free of spam: not only by myself, but by many moderators who also help with the groups by volunteering their time within the groups which they have joined as a member and found beneficial to their needs and interests.

I’m probably in the minority, but I really like most of the changes that Yahoo! has made recently—with the exception of the Manage My Groups page.

Within the first 24 hours of the Neo Groups roll out, I deleted quite a few of my Yahoo! groups because I was very frustrated that I could no longer see a notice (as previously available) for pending messages and pending members by scrolling the Manage My Groups page; and also because of the chaotic order of all of my groups, it was very difficult to separate the groups I owned, from the groups I moderated and the groups I was a member of, because all of the groups were now in no specific order at all, but rather mixed all together without rhyme or reason.  Since I have so many groups, I prefer scrolling through a central group listing location rather than have my email overflow with many, many group email notifications for pending members and pending messages.
I’ve also unsubscribed from all but 10 groups of which I am just a member.

Why would I make such decision to unsubscribe my membership from many groups and to delete so many groups of my own?

It was probably a hasty thing to do, and I will probably regret deleting them; but the thought of not being able to properly oversee groups that thousands of members have counted on for a level of quick responses, clean groups, and responsible management, left me feeling like I had no choice—or I would be letting the members down.  Maybe it’s true: haste makes waste.

But here’s the thing:

I, or the various groups’ moderators, must now go into each group individually to check for notifications of pending members and pending messages.  After checking 50 of my groups individually, my internet provider closes down my access to Yahoo! for a minimum of 24 hours. My internet provider blames Yahoo!’s security measures, and Yahoo! blames my internet provider’s security measures; and to be honest, I don’t really care which one it is, it just happens.

So the changes that Yahoo! have made with Neo Groups (for owners/moderators) will essentially cause my internet provider to shut me down for 24 hours; and then when I check the next set of 50 groups for pending members and pending messages, it will shut down again for another 24 hours.  Following this process, it would take me almost 14 days to check the status of 350 groups.  That’s unacceptable to me; and it’s certainly unacceptable to the many, many members of my groups.

The best solution is for me, and other owners/moderators with many groups, is to be able to view options for the viewing of (as previously established by Yahoo! and noted as “simple”, for example) our groups’ for pending members and pending messages by scrolling through the Manage My Groups page to see which groups have pending members and pending messages, and for the pages to show which do have pending items.  After all, as I mentioned, owners and moderators are volunteers for these groups; and I’d like think that it would be just as important for Yahoo! to make the Manage My Group’s page(s) as user-friendly, functional, and informative for group owners and moderators to utilize, as well as easy, fun, and interactive to Yahoo! groups members to use also.
Yahoo!MyGroupsNeoAndPrevious30August2013

As I mentioned, I am hoping that Yahoo! will provide an option for our Manage My Groups pages to have some choices: traditional simple, traditional expanded, neo simple, and neo expanded (as the neo allows for people to list groups in the order they prefer, although for me and the number of groups that I oversee the previous simple view works best). This would make the management of groups so much easier and efficient for groups owners and moderators.

I’m not here to knock the new Neo Groups; actually, the opposite: I’m happy to see Yahoo! update their system.  I’m especially happy to see Yahoo! put into place a newly modified protocol for abandoned groups (after all, Facebook, which is much newer, fills abandoned groups with a new owner rather quickly by just opening the opportunity with a simple message to the group: “Does anyone want to be the new group owner?”), so I’m glad to see Yahoo! move up to speed with things also by initiating a protocol for not just a new moderator, but a new owner for abandoned groups.  [It does make me a little annoyed, though, that I very recently unsubscribed from many of the (abandoned) groups that I was a member of because of the moderating difficulties that I’m having with the Neo Groups set up.]  Abandoned groups are a nuisance.

And I know that Yahoo! will fix the bugs and glitches that many of the groups are having, such as missing photos/albums, editing messages, automatic file notices, missing member email addresses, the chronological order of messages and other areas that people have complained about which have merit; I am just hoping that Yahoo! will listen to this area I have mentioned and that would be helpful to so many volunteering owners and moderators.

I have contacted Yahoo! directly on their forum.  I have asked for the members of my groups to also contact Yahoo! regarding this matter.  I’m glad to note that there was an outpouring of support for my request to Yahoo! by the members of my groups.  And I’m just as happy to see that my request for consideration to Yahoo! has moved from the back of the pack to the 1st page to be noticed by Yahoo!; but I remain—days later—saddened that my request has not had any response by Yahoo!‘s Groups Product Team—although all of the concerns before and after mine have been addressed in some form by Yahoo!’s Group Production Team (noting “gathering feedback”, “planned”, and “under review”).

At this point, I don’t know what will happen with the Yahoo! groups that I currently oversee.  I don’t think that it’s fair to expect the moderators of my groups, who volunteer their time, to take more time away from their families.  I don’t know if I should wait a little longer to see what decisions Yahoo!’s Group Production Team makes about my concern.  But I do know that I do not want for my groups to appear abandoned to the members of my groups because it will take so long to check each and every group individually for pending items.  That’s not fair, nor right, for the members who have been so loyal in my groups.

If you’d like to “vote” on the moderating suggestion that I’ve made to Yahoo!, and to perhaps take a moment longer to make a supportive comment, here’s the link to my concern on the Yahoo! Neo Groups forum:

http://yahoo.uservoice.com/forums/209451-us-groups/suggestions/4371682-neo-manage-my-groups-page-question

In the meantime, I leave this open letter to Yahoo! to consider modifying to Manage My Groups with options that would make moderating groups easier for group owners and moderators.

Thank you for listening.

–Rebecca Miller
The Sandwiched Homeschooler

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