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The Coupon Lady

Clearing out for the new year

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Merry Christmas. Today is the big day; gifts and presents are being unwrapped and Christmas dinners are being prepped. For many families, today marks the end of the busy Christmas season. Some of us are fortunate to have some time off for the next few weeks.

I love to take advantage of the break to do some winter deep cleaning. My family goes through our clothing and toys, and we decide what we can part with. Some items we might sell either at a consignment store or yard sale, but most get donated. This “downsizing” helps control the chaos and clutter from all the new arrivals.

As a couponer, this is also a wonderful time to take stock of kitchen and bathroom stockpiles. Or­gan­ization and space are key elements in keeping stockpiles under control and not allowing those bargains to overrun your living spaces.

Perfumes only have a shelf life of three to five years. Past its expiration date, perfume will have a strong alcohol smell and should be tossed. Lotions are good for up to three years. Suntan lotion will expire in one to two years and should have an expiration date on the bottle.

If you stockpile, you should have a good collection of free or inexpensive name-brand makeup. Mascara should be used no more than six months, and foundation should be replaced every six to 12 months, depending on the brand. Most foundations will have a small symbol on the product telling you how long the container will last once opened. Look for a tiny open jar with a 6M or 12M, which stands for six months or twelve months. Eye shadows and lipsticks can last one to two years. However, if you’ve used lipstick during an illness you might want to consider tossing it.

Once all the makeup and perfumes have been purged, it’s time to move on to medicines. Try to keep all pills in the boxes they came in. One solution I have found is to use tape to keep the boxes closed once they have been opened. It takes up a little more room in your cabinets, but the boxes often contain the expiration date.

If you are unsure of a medicine’s expiration date, toss it. Never use expired medicine. Some drugs get stronger over time, and others become ineffective. Don’t take chances with your health. A good couponer can replace any expired medicines cheaply and quickly so there is no need to hold on to old ones.

I also take stock of bathroom cleaners, toys and stockpile levels. This is a good time to donate if you notice you’ve gathered too many shampoos or body washes.

Once I have finished my bathroom, I move on to my kitchen cabinets. I try to keep my pantry rotating during the year by putting the oldest items in front, so my major tasks are cleaning out spices and condiments.

Spices have an expiration date. According to www.ochef.com, “Stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place, spices retain their potency longer than you’d think – as long as four years for whole spices, two to three years for ground spices and one to three years for leafy herbs, depending on the herb.” The site suggests that smell is key to determining whether a herb or spice is good. “Herbs lose their flavor faster than spices. Dried herbs that have no color and no or very little smell when crumbled in the palm of your hand are probably too old for practical use.”

With the exception of common items (mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard) I like to toss old condiments at least twice a year. Mayon­naise, Miracle Whip and tar­tar sauce last for three months after opening. Ranch dressing lasts for two months. Sour cream lasts three weeks, and cream cheese lasts two weeks. For a more detailed list of the shelf life of condiments, join me on Facebook at Augusta Coupon Lady or Augusta Smart Shopper. Until next time, happy shopping.

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Free coupon classes with Carol Gunter will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 27 and 29 at The Augusta Chronicle News Building, 725 Broad St. Seating is limited; to reserve a spot for Dec. 27, log on to smartshopper1227.eventbrite.com; for Dec. 29, go to smart shopper1229.eventbrite.com.


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