By Julie Henning

Special to The Star

On March 18, 2010, Sun Prairie resident Dannelle Gay published the first blog post on her website, Operation $40K (http://operation40k.blogspot.com). 

With a goal of saving forty thousand dollars in one year to buy a dream home without a loan, Gay’s first step towards savings was taking a close look at the family budget. 

“As I tracked our expenses, I saw we were spending $400 a month just going out to eat,” Gay began. “So that stopped right away.” Next up was the monthly grocery bill. Following the grocery story circulars and using coupons and rebates to cut down their monthly grocery expenses, Gay quickly and efficiently began saving between 60-80 percent on every trip to the grocery store. “Clipping coupons is nothing new, “she said. “People have been clipping coupons for a long time, but a lot of them don’t know the right way to do it.”

In addition to blogging about her Operation $40K journey, Gay also teaches three different classes at the Sun Prairie Public Library and area churches:  Coupon Clipping 101, Meal Planning 101, and Stockpile Swaps. “It’s cool to be cheap now and people want to know how to do it,” she said. Over sixty people attended Gay’s Coupon Clipping 101 class at the public library this past December.  

At the grocery store, Gay carries a large box of coupons organized alphabetically by brand. Organizing the coupons she intends to use into smaller envelopes, Gay has already written out her grocery list on the front of the envelope, checking the items from the list as she puts them in her cart. 

In any given week, she spends an hour or less making her grocery list and clipping coupons. Considering her time as well as the amount of gas required to drive to different parts of town for sales, Gay likes to make as many purchases in Sun Prairie as she can. 

Using coupons and weekly specials to purchase items in multiples, Gay is often able to donate extra items to her church food pantry.  

“Two weeks ago, I donated over 30 boxes of cereal to our church and I still got the free milk and eggs from the grocery store,” she said.  

Spelling out the grocery store policies for using coupons on her blog, she advocates always working within the policies of the store to do the best thing for your family.

As an example of one budget-reduction strategy, Gay offers this tip, “Grocery stores repeat their sales cycle on meat deals of the week. If boneless skinless chicken breast is on sale this week, it won’t be that cheap again for another six to eight weeks. If you cook with a pound of chicken every week, you’ll want to buy eight pounds of chicken at that price. In my meal planning and creative cooking classes, I teach people how to prep [the meat] and put it in the freezer so they aren’t eating chicken for eight days in a row. 

“This includes ideas on cooking, seasoning, and shredding the meat so they can plan in advance for meals. 

“And the next week the meat on sale might be ground beef, so I provide tips for dividing the meat and making meatballs, meatloaf or hamburger patties,” Gay said. 

“By the end of that six to eight week cycle, stockpiling just your meat on the cheap price will cut your grocery bill by 25 percent, easy.”

“You can also talk to your produce manager to find out when vegetable platters go on sale. Often times, the vegetable platters are less expensive than the individual produce, and all the prep work is already done for you,” Gay added.

Taking the stockpile example even further, Gay often facilitates community Stockpile Swaps. 

Open to anyone, swap dates and rules are posted on her website. 

Explaining the general concept, Gay said, “Let’s say you have forty boxes cereal and you are only going through three boxes a week. So you bring the extra cereal to the Stockpile Swap. 

“Somebody else brings soup, and somebody else brings hand wipes, and somebody else brings toothpaste, and so on. You take ten items and everyone takes turns picking from the big pile. Say you come home with eight items you would actually use, that’s a lot better than having the extras at home. At the end of the swap all of the extra items are donated to the food pantry.” 

As a rule of thumb, items to be swapped cannot be opened, expired, or a trial size. 

“Anybody can organize a stockpile with a group of friends,” Gay added. “It just takes one person to put the idea into action.”

“One thing I teach in the Coupon 101 class is to let other people do all the work for you. There’s tons of [coupon themed] blogs out there, and I’ve linked to a bunch of them from my website,” Gay added.  

For obtaining coupons, she recommends purchasing the Sunday paper at a dollar store or picking up a copy of AllYou magazine at Wal-Mart.  

“AllYou has at least $58 worth of coupons in each issue,” she said. 

To date, Gay has tracked savings of over $34,000 on Operation $40K. 

When asked what motivates her share so much with the community, her answer was this, “The experts have said the recession was over in 2009, which is funny because I have friends that are losing their homes. 

“People are still losing their jobs and factories are still closing, and it’s just crazy,” Gay said. 

“I’m just teaching other people how to save money so they don’t have to make the choice between putting gas in their cars and buying food for their kids.” 

On March 18, 2010, Sun Prairie resident Dannelle Gay published the first blog post on her website, Operation $40K (http://operation40k.blogspot.com). 

With a goal of saving forty thousand dollars in one year to buy a dream home without a loan, Gay’s first step towards savings was taking a close look at the family budget. 

“As I tracked our expenses, I saw we were spending $400 a month just going out to eat,” Gay began. “So that stopped right away.”

Next up was the monthly grocery bill. Following the grocery story circulars and using coupons and rebates to cut down their monthly grocery expenses, Gay quickly and efficiently began saving between 60-80 percent on every trip to the grocery store.

“Clipping coupons is nothing new, “she said. “People have been clipping coupons for a long time, but a lot of them don’t know the right way to do it.”

In addition to blogging about her Operation $40K journey, Gay also teaches three different classes at the Sun Prairie Public Library and area churches: Coupon Clipping 101, Meal Planning 101, and Stockpile Swaps.

“It’s cool to be cheap now and people want to know how to do it,” she said.

Over sixty people attended Gay’s Coupon Clipping 101 class at the public library this past December.  

At the grocery store, Gay carries a large box of coupons organized alphabetically by brand. Organizing the coupons she intends to use into smaller envelopes, Gay has already written out her grocery list on the front of the envelope, checking the items from the list as she puts them in her cart. 

In any given week, she spends an hour or less making her grocery list and clipping coupons. Considering her time as well as the amount of gas required to drive to different parts of town for sales, Gay likes to make as many purchases in Sun Prairie as she can. 

Using coupons and weekly specials to purchase items in multiples, Gay is often able to donate extra items to her church food pantry.  

“Two weeks ago, I donated over 30 boxes of cereal to our church and I still got the free milk and eggs from the grocery store,” she said.  

Spelling out the grocery store policies for using coupons on her blog, she advocates always working within the policies of the store to do the best thing for your family.

As an example of one budget-reduction strategy, Gay offers this tip, “Grocery stores repeat their sales cycle on meat deals of the week. If boneless skinless chicken breast is on sale this week, it won’t be that cheap again for another six to eight weeks. If you cook with a pound of chicken every week, you’ll want to buy eight pounds of chicken at that price. In my meal planning and creative cooking classes, I teach people how to prep [the meat] and put it in the freezer so they aren’t eating chicken for eight days in a row. 

“This includes ideas on cooking, seasoning, and shredding the meat so they can plan in advance for meals. 

“And the next week the meat on sale might be ground beef, so I provide tips for dividing the meat and making meatballs, meatloaf or hamburger patties,” Gay said. 

“By the end of that six to eight week cycle, stockpiling just your meat on the cheap price will cut your grocery bill by 25 percent, easy.”

“You can also talk to your produce manager to find out when vegetable platters go on sale. Often times, the vegetable platters are less expensive than the individual produce, and all the prep work is already done for you,” Gay added.

Taking the stockpile example even further, Gay often facilitates community Stockpile Swaps. 

Open to anyone, swap dates and rules are posted on her website. 

Explaining the general concept, Gay said, “Let’s say you have forty boxes cereal and you are only going through three boxes a week. So you bring the extra cereal to the Stockpile Swap. 

“Somebody else brings soup, and somebody else brings hand wipes, and somebody else brings toothpaste, and so on. You take ten items and everyone takes turns picking from the big pile. Say you come home with eight items you would actually use, that’s a lot better than having the extras at home. At the end of the swap all of the extra items are donated to the food pantry.” 

As a rule of thumb, items to be swapped cannot be opened, expired, or a trial size. 

“Anybody can organize a stockpile with a group of friends,” Gay added. “It just takes one person to put the idea into action.”

“One thing I teach in the Coupon 101 class is to let other people do all the work for you. There’s tons of [coupon themed] blogs out there, and I’ve linked to a bunch of them from my website,” Gay added.  

For obtaining coupons, she recommends purchasing the Sunday paper at a dollar store or picking up a copy of AllYou magazine at Wal-Mart.  

“AllYou has at least $58 worth of coupons in each issue,” she said. 

To date, Gay has tracked savings of over $34,000 on Operation $40K. 

When asked what motivates her share so much with the community, her answer was this, “The experts have said the recession was over in 2009, which is funny because I have friends that are losing their homes. 

“People are still losing their jobs and factories are still closing, and it’s just crazy,” Gay said. “I’m just teaching other people how to save money so they don’t have to make the choice between putting gas in their cars and buying food for their kids.” 

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