Taking out the Trash: Little Sam’s Club, Job Security and Paul’s Pantry

June 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Coupons, Grocery 

Time for another edition of Taking out the Trash, the semi-regular posts that usually have something to do with saving money but are not specific deals.  I have a lot on my mind so I’m cleaning out the “garbage” in my head by Taking out the Trash.  (And if you’ve ever noticed, they usually fall on Wednesdays which is garbage night at our house). :-)

I spent much of my afternoon in Not-So-Little-Sam’s Club, the basement stockpile that I’ve kept up for some time.  It was definitely time to donate!

For newer readers, you may not know the story of my stockpile.  About a year ago I organized it and wrote about it on my previous Facebook page.  The picture you see here was taken in June 2010.  I had just taken advantage of Big Lots moving from one location to another, so everything in their store was 50% off.  My sister saw the stockpile area in the basement and said it was like Sam’s Club.  And that’s how my slightly more than modest stockpile got it’s name.

Flash forward a few months and my husband suddenly lost his job–no two weeks notice, no severance, just done.  Because of the stockpile I had compiled, one of the few things we didn’t have to worry about was food.  Then, when talking to our case worker for unemployment benefits, she told me how much our family of six was eligible to get in food stamps each month.  I was shocked, I must have gasped.  The case worker started explaining to me that it would be reviewed in six months and if it turned out the amount allotted was too low…

I stopped her.  No, I said I was shocked because it was TWICE the amount I normally spent on groceries!

The first thing we did was to make an SUV-sized donation to Paul’s Pantry with many of the items pictured above.  Because I knew I was going to have to make room for more.

For those almost four months that my husband was out of work, I continued to shop the sales and match up coupons as I had always done.  And used up every single cent of the food stamps offered to me.  Let me tell you, it was exhausting!  After all, I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.  My sister’s husband had been out of work for 8-9 months, a friend, the same amount, another, more than two years without work. I did not know how long we would be without regular income, I did not know how long the benefits would last, but I was determined to be prepared and at least we wouldn’t have to worry about food.

And then my husband found a job.  Yay!

By March 2011, when the last of our food stamp money was burned up, Little Sam’s Club had become Not-So-Little Sam’s Club.  And I finally got it all organized again.  There it is:

I know, right?!  INSANE.  Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle, it even frightened me!  As much as I bust on TLC’s Extreme Couponing, there we were with all this STUFF.  Looking like crazy coupon hoarder lady!

We donated to Stamp out for Hunger and to my daughters’ school food drive, but we still held back a little, not donating nearly as much as we could have.  You see, I announced to my readers at Christmastime when my husband found a job in Milwaukee.  But what I didn’t tell you was that this spring, we feared he was going to lose his job again.   We later found out that had he not found another position shortly after his sixth sense kicked in, he would have!

Now at his newest job for two months and feeling much better about the job situation overall, we decided it was time to help out those who have been less fortunate than us.

But now it’s my turn to worry.

It’s a scary time in the work world.  There is no such thing as job security. Many of you have read or know that I work at WFRV, a place where I always felt at home; when I went back to work in December, the job wasn’t handed to me.  I had to interview twice, in fact.  Yet when I returned, even though it had been almost ten years since I had worked there and many of the faces were new to me, I was comfortable.   On Friday July 1st, the station will have new owners.  Cuts were made, including the jobs of my boss and 22 other people, some who have worked at the station since I was in grade school.  Suddenly they do not have a job.  Who knows what the future will bring for me and my colleagues?  Besides glorious HD newscasts (have you seen it?– truly amazing picture!  Hey, you either have to laugh or cry, right? And I choose laughter.)   I know that for most people, that fear of job security is in the back of your head at all times.

Many people shop with coupons and shop the sales to save money.  Many others are doing it because they literally have to or bills don’t get paid.  They are like most, working with the feeling that there is a target painted on their back.  Which is why I am a huge believer in creating small stockpile in the event of job loss.   We  are lucky in that our family has not yet had to face the worst scenario–what we went through was scary enough.  Despite the fact I would gladly wipe away the past year of our lives with all the job changes and job loss, insurance woes, health problems, loss of loved ones, etc., I know that we are still truly blessed.

I always talked about paying it forward and it’s true, I did, but I felt like I hadn’t done enough in recent months.

So with a basement stockpile busting at the seams, today I cleaned house, so-to-speak. I gave some stuff to my friend, a single mom. I have another small box of organic pantry items for my friend who tries to eat as organic as possible, I have a box of snacks to store at my mother’s house since she lost her job and is on a fixed income now.  She won’t have to worry about feeding her ravenous grandkids when they stop by for a visit.

And then I called Paul’s Pantry.  Turns out if you have enough stuff to donate, they’ll come pick it up.  Because even with my SUV which seats eight, I could not fit the bounty I am going to donate from Little Sam’s Club.  Which is finally Little again.

Try Sam’s Club FREE this weekend

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 

If you’re not a member of Sam’s Club, you can try them out for free this weekend.  April 15–17th Sam’s Club is having a Spring Taste of Sam’s open house for non-members from 11am to 6pm each of those days.  They promise lots of free samples of food so you know the place is gonna be packed.  And non-members can buy at Sam’s Club prices without the normal 10% charge added for those who don’t belong to the club.

Sam’s Club is one of the many places you can use to help your household budget IF you don’t succumb to the vast quantities of impulse items and shop there enough to justify the yearly membership cost.

Me, I’ve got my own Little Sam’s Club in my basement so I don’t need to go. :-)

Paying it Forward

February 27, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Coupons 

I’ve been reorganizing my basement this week.  More precisely, I’m trying to get Little Sam’s Club organized.  One of the only good things about being unemployed for several months was the food stamps, at least for The Bargain Sleuth. Because the amount the state of Wisconsin allotted to my family of six was WAY more than I normally spend in one month for groceries.  So for three months, I still did my sales with match-ups but was able to stock up a LOT more than a “normal” family would.

This isn’t a post about tooting my own horn but about paying it forward.  Right before I started burning up the food stamp card, I knew I could really stretch that money not only for my family but for others.  I made an SUV-sized donation to Paul’s Pantry because I knew I’d need the room.  And boy was I right.

I bought a lot of stuff for mere pennies after matching up coupons and sales.  I stocked up on many things. And with all the extra I was able to buy with my larger budget, I can make another huge donation to my kids’ school because they are doing a food drive.  The 2nd grade class at St. Joseph School wants to collect 200 canned or boxed items this week.  LOL, I think they set their sights too low with The Bargain Sleuth as one of the 2nd grade Moms. I’ve got a truckload of stuff for them. :-) Pay it forward.

This past week as I shopped, I had several people in line behind me at the checkout do a “Wow, you did great!” after seeing my totals go down after discounts and coupons.  I also ran into a lady at Target who was going to buy Finish dishwasher detergent because she needed some, not because it was on sale last week, not because there is a Target.com coupon AND a manufacturer’s coupon out there making it FREE.  I gave her my coupons and my business card when she said she really needed to pay more attention to sales to try and save money.  Pay it forward, people.

If you know how to play the couponing/stockpiling “game”, then you’re also able to not only stretch your budget but help others as well.  Many of the money-saving bloggers like myself started because they wanted to show others how to stretch the budget and help others at the same time.  Pay it forward.

While we will eat many of the things in the stockpile, I know that I’ll be pulling stuff out for donations as the months go on. I also know that the food pantries are always in need and the Stamp Out for Hunger is in May.  Just something to keep in mind as you find the deals.  No matter how tough your situation, you can always find a way to pay it forward.

Didn’t mean to get on my soapbox.  Must have been a really good homily today. :-)