Thursday, July 20, 2017

Extreme Couponing Book Review

I was excited to finally see this book at the library so I quickly put it on reserve.  I think that there was a wait but I have lost track with all the reserves that I make at the library.  I was excited to get to this book in my pile while I was just getting back from vacation.  Extreme Couponing: Learn How to Be a Savvy Shopper and Save Money... One Coupon At a Time by Joni Meyer-Crothers was a very quick book to read.  The chapters were easy to follow and filled with stories and lots of information to start couponing and make the habit stick.

In today's economy, being money savvy is a necessity. For most American households cutting back on the things they love has become harder and harder to bear. But there are ways to get what you want at a fraction of the cost--if not free.   With this book, extreme couponing expert Joni Meyer-Crothers ( explains precisely how she has managed to save thousands by clipping coupons, using them wisely and never paying full retail price for any product. She reveals what basic items you should never pay for (toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, pasta, etc.), and teaches readers techniques to obtain coupons that do not cost a penny and turn them around to save big on groceries, cleaning items, hygienic supplies, and many other household products.  Learn the basics of couponing, maximizing your savings, and thinking outside of the box when it comes to how you shop. With Extreme Couponing, there's no reason to pay full price for the things you need in life.
I read this book after couponing for about 9 years so I know that I wasn't really the audience but I have wanted to check it out for so long.  It wasn't a disappointment because it was filled with great stories including boring her family with quizzes on how much things cost at the store and what she paid for them.  It is an amusing hobby of mine too and after 9 years, they really don't want to guess so I normally get about once or twice a year that I can play the guessing game.  There are 10 chapters in the book including What's Your Spending Situation, Collecting As Many Coupons as You Can and Getting Organized.  This book walks you through start to finish how to be frugal and why stocking up on things is a great idea and how getting the lowest price on items saves tons of money.  It is frequently the hardest things that I try to explain to people that I don't just use coupons but I coupon meaning that I won't waste using a coupon if the item isn't on sale and getting the best possible price.  There is tons in this book about giving back and how giving back a little helps a lot and I think that her perspective is very unique.  I used to donate a lot of items that we weren't going to use that I got free or nearly free but now I shop so infrequently and little that I have less excess to do that with.  I am hoping that I can get back to that eventually but this book certainly focuses on that message.  I thought it was way more uplifting then I expected but also jam packed with information like couponing lingo and more.  I hope that if you are interested in couponing that you check this out.  If you have already started or been doing it a long time, it might give you an interesting prospective that you might not of had before.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Angel's Rest Book Review

I decided to start reading a new series right before vacation but I really don't know how I picked it.  The funny part is that I got them all from the library and it turns out that one of them was in the pile of books that I owned that was in my reading pile.  I got them all and in order and made sure that I got them all from the library but the amusing part was that the first book was the last to arrive so I couldn't start until I left for vacation!  Angel's Rest: An Eternity Springs Novel by Emily March is the first book in the series and the last that arrived on my reserve shelf so I patiently waited.

Gabriel Callahan has lost everything that mattered. All he wants is solitude on an isolated mountain estate. Instead, he gets a neighbor. Vibrant, no-nonsense Nic Sullivan is Eternity Springs’ veterinarian, and she has an uncanny plan to lure this talented architect back to the world of the living. First with a dog, next with a renovation project, and, finally, with a night of passion that ends with a surprise.  Now a man still raw from tragedy must face the biggest struggle of his heart. Can he forgive himself and believe in the power of second chances? Dare he trust in the promise of a future and a brand-new family here in Eternity Springs?

I am not sure what lead me to this series but I am glad that I got them.  I went straight from the first to the second to the third while on vacation instead of reading all of the other books that I brought with me.  I thought that I didn't bring the fourth because of all the other books that I brought but I found it when I got home packing in the bag where I couldn't find it before.  This great writing and wonderful characters make it hard to put down because you want to find out what happens next.  I loved learning about Gabe Callahan and watching him recover from the devastating loss of his wife and child.  Nic Sullivan is the town vet and she ends up saving a dog that Gabe finds in the woods.  They are drawn together by this event and living in this small town.  Watch the friendship grow and both of them heal from their pasts in this great book one in the Eternity Springs series.  I hope that you check out this book and enjoy it as much as I did.  It was a great start to a new series of  books from the library.  I was quickly on to the next book in the series when I finished this one even though there was another book that I was supposed to be reading in my pile!!  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Middle of the Month Grocery Spending and Eating Out Update

 I was afraid how this month would go because I am really bad normally on our vacation month with getting lots of special treats and overspending.  Although I justify it by saying that we would spend way more if my husband and son just went to buy what they wanted when we got to the beach.

I started off really early in the month because I didn't get to buy the things that I wanted at the end of June because I wasn't free until the weekend and that pushed me into July.  I went to three grocery stores in one day just to get everything we needed.

Harris Teeter $7.93 + $8.30= $16.23

I went to the store first thing on Sunday morning to get the free sour bears...okay I needed other groceries too but I went on the weekend so that I could get the free sour bears.

I got free Smithfield sausage which I need to cook up and freeze with the rest of the frozen sausage.  I also got a free coupon for the ice cream that I also put in for a $1 rebate so it was a money maker.  I got the sliced cheese which was on sale for $2.50 had an electronic $1 off coupon and I used two $0.55 off coupons which doubled to $1.10 off so they were $0.90 each... Then, $1 rebate on one site and two $0.50 rebates on another one and they were on sale and I used a coupon so they were money makers.  They have come in handy a few times and used them for sandwiches and other things through vacation.

I got the Ocean Spray because we were running very low and it was on sale.  I packed one to take on vacation and the rest went in the extra fridge.  I grabbed the mini doughnuts which were $0.49 after sale and coupon because I thought my family would enjoy them for vacation.  I knew that I needed a head of lettuce for a few meals on vacation so I got it here because it is $0.99 which is cheaper then Aldi.  My husband was out of vitamins so I got those which were on sale and used a coupon so they were $2.99 and my last minute addition because I remembered while in the checkout line.  I actually ended up checking out twice because I kept forget things!!

Aldi $11.54

I went to the store to get milk and pretzels because we were out of both and grabbed the chicken because I thought we might be running low on at least once and it would save me going back to the store to figure out which one.

Wegman's $29.60

I prefer the meat at Wegman's so I grabbed the family pack of chicken and ground beef so that I could portion it up and freeze it.  Some of it was used for our vacation food and others saved for the rest of the month.  We were out of mac and cheese and planned to have that a few times over vacation but only got to eat it once.  I was glad to stock up on everything.

Aldi $5.56 - $2.04= $3.52

I went to the store to get a few things and return the ice cream sandwiches which were horrible last time I got them.  I even went as far as getting two boxes so I was super quick to return one box so that I could get my money back and a new box of ice cream because we had two horrible boxes of ice cream sandwiches which of course my son still ate because horrible ice cream sandwiches are better then none!  I was totally out of the huge stockpile of frozen flour tortillas that I got years ago so I got one for vacation and they were amazing.  I also got an extra bag of chips for vacation for my two salsa eaters.    I also grabbed a package of taco seasoning because we are totally out of all the free ones so I figured that I would try so who knows if I will like it but I hope that I can find a homemade mix that I like but I haven't been super successful yet with the few that I tried..

Aldi $2.75 - $2.96= -$0.21

I had to go back to the store to return the shortening because the one that I bought at the store was open....UGH!!  Why does that happen when I am in a hurry.  I took my son and his friend to a birthday party and went to the store while they were playing.  I had to get another salsa because the store the other day was totally out and another box of sugar cones because my family decided we couldn't come up short when it came to cones on vacation (I packed 2 1/2 boxes).  We luckily didn't run out but only because I went back to the store to get more against what I was thinking.  The return of the shortening made these groceries free!!!

Harris Teeter $6.82

I was exhausted with my long list of things to do before we left for vacation so after working late into the night, I knew that I didn't have enough energy to make it to the store but I decided that I would get up extra early (so after only a few hours sleep), I finished some packing and went to the grocery store before we were going to leave on vacation.  I couldn't pass up the free items.  I got free Barilla noodles (and I think money maker with an electronic coupon) which I was excited to try (they weren't a hit with my son).  I got free Puffs tissues and free Listerine dental floss.  I got the Raspberry Lemonade for $0.09 which is almost free!

I was excited to find the Cocoa Pebbles on sale for $2 and I had a coupon for $1/2 and it was super doubles so I paid $1.00 each and turned in a rebate for $0.80 each on Ibotta so they were only $0.20.  I was just sad that I didn't buy another two because my son loves it so much.  I bought tomatoes for $0.37 for the can and turned them in for $0.25 rebate.  I got the Rev wrap for $0.50 after sale and coupon and turned in two rebates for $1.00 form Mobi Save and $0.75 from Checkout 51 so it was a money maker.   I used the meat sliced up and cooked for the salad on vacation and toasted the wrap with the cheese for a flatbread on the side of the salad.  I bought three boxes of the Very Berry Cheerios which were super cheap at $0.09 per box and I ended up getting a Saving Star rebate back for $1 (which I wasn't sure I was going to get).  I got one container of the Yoplait Custard Yogurt to make scones on vacation so it was $0.50 after sale and coupon and I got a $0.25 rebate from Saving Star.

The Chex Mix was the thing that actually drove me to the store because my husband and son love to have them on vacation and the four bags that I got would normally cost $11 which is crazy in my opinion.  They were on sale half off and there were coupons for $0.50 off 2 so and I got them for $0.87 each...not a great deal but a good vacation splurge.  I got a $0.50 Saving Star rebate too for a little added bonus which would make them $0.75 each after rebate. Took the picture on the belt at the store so that I could rush out as soon as I got home.

Weis $13.11

We stopped at the store after getting into our vacation condo.  There was a deal that if you bought 6 tubs of Turkey Hill Ice Cream then you got them for $1.99.  It seemed like a great deal and I compared against other stores and it was only $2 or $3 more for two more gallons which we weren't planning on buying.  This way gave us enough for lots of ice cream treats throughout vacation.  We finished both mint chocolate chips and the cookies and cream.  We almost finished the black raspberry which was really tasty.  The chocolate and the fruit sherbet were about half gone but we have to trash them at the end of the weeks stay.  We finished the whole head of lettuce with chicken fajitas and beef tacos and chopped salad using it all up.

Aldi $13.71

I went to the store to get milk and lunch meat but ended up with a few more things in the cart since I didn't make a list.  The milk was only $0.96 because I went to the store that was less expensive.  The eggs were $0.59 so I decided to buy those because it is cheaper then the other stores and we only had a few eggs.  I got a backup butter and then we decided we were hot and got more ice cream sandwiches. 

We had a long day so when I unloaded the car, I forgot the bag in the trunk which I unloaded second and took a picture of second with crackers, sugar cones and two jars of medium salsa because we finished all those things over vacation too.

Total Retail $228.86
Total Saving $134.54
Total OOP $94.32

I think that I did pretty well for the first half of the month with vacation and missing the end of the month shopping from last month which ended me well under budget for June.  I still have $65.68 left in the budget for the month so hoping that I can make it work with a few great deals.

Our Eating Out Total

We got pizza when friends came to visit which ended up being a lot more then expected because the Little Caesars was closed and we didn't plan far enough ahead for backup plans but ended up at Papa John's which was the only thing showing up on the GPS.  My husband (obviously after too many years with me) ordered the three pizzas and when the lady said the total he questioned her.  He said there was a menu but no prices on anything.  They reworked the three pizzas and added a soda to save some money so that was $38.00.  My husband looked up the pricing online and asked the lady there why he couldn't get that price and she said that it was only online.  How irritating?!

My husband took my son to the playplace at the McDonalds and got a drink and fries for them and coffee for my cousin so that was $3.99 so the total spent for the month was $41.99.  We did eat out at Pete's Steak Shop (lots), Thrashers fries $10, Kohr Brothers Ice Cream $11, and Grottos Pizza (lots) which my mom and cousin picked up the tab for so there was lots and lots of eating but staying low at $41.99 OOP.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Menu Plan Monday 7/17

Monday- Chicken fries, Buffalo Chicken with french fries
Tuesday- Grilled Chicken with white rice
Wednesday- Pot Luck Dinner at VBS
Thursday- Pasta
Friday- Leftovers
Saturday- ??
Sunday- ??

I know that the first thing that I need to do is head to the grocery store and get milk, lunch meat and a few other things because we are out of everything after taking a week away for vacation.    I don't really know what the week is going to hold because I am exhausted from a busy week of vacation.  I am hoping to figure out the rest of the week after looking in the freezer and pantry to see what is left after vacation.  We ate way too much on vacation and I had a hard time remembering to write it all down so I am trying to recreate the list of things that we ate which is near impossible (mostly overeating which I think is always the case on vacation).  I know that at the end of the week my cousin and mom came and we ended up eating out a whole lot more then I planned to so I had a bunch of food left that had to be packed up and brought home :(  My husband said that there was way more going home then coming and he ran out of room when packing up the car.  I don't think that it was as bad as he made it sound.  Here is hoping we have a calm week and I get to the grocery store so that we can put a few things back in the fridge.

Friday, July 14, 2017

His Guilt Book Review

I was excited to get to read the second book in the series since I enjoyed the first so much.  His Guilt: The Amish of Hart County by Shelley Shepard Gray is the second book in the Amish of Hart County series.  I love the author and the first book so I didn't even have a clue what this book was going to be about but that didn't stop me from being really excited.  It came in the mail but I was set on not reading it before the month that I was supposed to do the review because often if I post the review on my blog to far in advanced, I forget to do all of the other things that go along with posting my review like posting on Amazon and posting on the site that sent me the wonderful book to try.  I wasn't going to make that mistake again so I set it aside until the beginning of July and excitedly started soon after with a very fast finish because I couldn't put it down.

Mark Fisher has returned home to Hart County, determined to put the past behind him. Two years ago, after being wrongly accused of assault, he left the Amish community, though never forgot his home. When the one person who had helped him through his rough times asks for help, Mark returns. But it is pretty Waneta Cain who makes him want to stay... Neeta is one of the few people in Hart County who doesn’t believe Mark is guilty of hurting anyone. However, his worldliness and tough exterior do make her uneasy. As she begins to see the real man behind all the gossip and prejudice, she wonders if he is the man for her.  Just when Mark starts to believe a new life is possible, a close friend of Neeta’s is attacked. Once again, everyone in the community seems to believe he is guilty.  But what hurts most is Neeta’s sudden wariness around him. When another woman is hurt, a woman who is close to both Neeta and himself, Mark fears he knows the real culprit. And time is running out. Will Mark be able to find him before Neeta becomes his next victim?

I didn't remember all the details of the first book when I picked this one up but I totally didn't need to in order to enjoy this stand alone novel.  Mark Fisher is back in town and everyone seems to still think that he did bad things before he left the small Amish community even though he was cleared by the police.  He came back to help his friend who was failing in health to run his nursery because there is a lot of heavy lifting.  Mark also was interested in remodeling his family home so that he could try to work through his childhood pain growing up in the house.  Waneta "Neeta" Cain works with him and is quickly reminded by her parents that she needs to be more open and forgiving to the new person that she is working with.  Mark and Waneta quickly become friends.  Waneta finds that she is often sticking up for Mark because other people in the community are thinking bad things about him.  At the same time, bad things are happening again in the small community with girls being attacked.  I feel like this book was a lot different then many other Amish fiction books because it kept you on he edge of your seat to find out what is going to happen next.  The main mystery is whether Mark is going to be able to get over his past to build his future.  I hope that you check out this book for yourself and follow the path to his guilt!!!

**I received a copy of this book for my review but all opinions here are my own and a positive review was not required.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Caroline's Secret Book Review

On my long trip to the library to find new books, I came upon a series that seemed interesting.  The first book in the series happened to be in the shelf so I was excited.Caroline's Secret (A Wells Landing Romance) by Amy Lillard was the first book that I was going to read in this series and also the first in the series which I love reading in order.  I put the rest of the series on reserve so that I could read through them all.  I can't wait to read this whole series soon!!  I will try to be patient for them to come in at the library but there isn't a lot of time before we leave for vacation so I am hoping that they all come so that I can read my way through vacation.

In Amy Lillard's poignant introduction to Wells Landing, a small Amish community is home to two brave souls hoping to forget their painful pasts and rebuild their faith in the future. . . Caroline Hostetler arrived in Oklahoma determined to forge a new life for herself and her daughter, Emma. As a single mother, she values the warmth and safety she's found in close-knit Wells Landing. She's even caught the eye of a handsome newcomer--a man who just may be the partner she longs for and the father Emma deserves. But the arrival of an Englisher threatens to lay bare the secrets she's worked so hard to leave behind. . .  After losing his life-long sweetheart, Andrew Fitch moved to Wells Landing to work in his uncle's furniture business and nurse his broken heart. Finding love again seems all but impossible--until he meets Caroline and Emma. But his plans to join their lives together may be shattered when the truth of Caroline's past comes to light--unless, together, they can learn the true meaning of sacrifice and forgiveness. . .

This book was an interesting introduction to Wells Landing which is a more progressive Amish Beachy community.  It is an accepting place that seems to a wonderful community.  Caroline arrived on the bus from her very conservative town to raise her daughter, Emma.  She quickly got a job working in the local bakery and was taken in by the owner.  Caroline and Emma work and live with Ester who was a widow with no children of her own.  She treated Caroline and Emma like family and they had a comfortable life.  Caroline meets Andrew and they form a deep friendship which quickly starts to feel like family for both of them.  Ester is building her relationship with Abe Fitch, Andrew's uncle.  They are all very happy until Caroline's life is turned upside down by a letter from her mother and you have to pick up the book to find out what happens.  The even better part then the ending is that there is a recipe section which I always love for three of the recipe that are made in the book a lot.  I was excited to read this book and can't wait to read the second book in the series.  I will be waiting less than patiently to get it as the library soon.  I hope that you check out this book and the rest of the series too.

If you want to check out some of the recipes, they have Amish Buttermilk Cookies, Hawaiian Delight Cookies and Cowboy Cookies!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Devil Wins Book Review

I went to the library to attend a library program with my son but he wasn't interested in leaving afterwards so he stayed in the kids section and I checked out tons of books.  I searched for a large variety of books without success and found a new book that I hadn't read yet in the Jesse Stone series.  I was so excited to get Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins (A Jesse Stone Novel) by Reed Farrel Coleman and realize that it was the next book in the series for me.  I was excited to get back to the series and a little more sad to know that I missed the release but now there were two new books to read!!  I reserved the second one at the library and after finishing this book, I am sure I will be on edge waiting.

A Nor’easter blows into Paradise and churns up the past in this stunning new addition to Robert B. Parker’s New York Times–bestselling series featuring police chief Jesse Stone. In the wake of a huge storm, three bodies are discovered in the rubble of an abandoned factory building in an industrial part of Paradise known as The Swap. One body, a man’s, wrapped in a blue tarp, is only hours old. But found within feet of that body are the skeletal remains of two teenage girls who had gone missing during a Fourth of July celebration twenty-five years earlier. Not only does that crime predate Jesse Stone’s arrival in Paradise, but the dead girls were close friends of Jesse’s right hand, Officer Molly Crane. And things become even more complicated when one of the dead girls’ mothers returns to Paradise to bury her daughter and is promptly murdered. It’s up to police chief Jesse Stone to pull away the veil of the past to see how all these murders are connected . . .

I was excited to get to read this next installment of a great series that I really enjoyed.  I have read a few books that were written after Robert Parker passed and I still enjoyed the new writer because I felt like he was still following the same character and writing style.  I enjoyed this book with lots of action and stressful situations.  My favorite is the relationship that Jesse has with his staff.  Suit is still recovering from a gun shot wound and Jesse is finding that he is very protective of him.  Molly is in the middle of the newest case which is bringing up problems from her childhood.  There is so much going on that Jesse's job is again threatened and he is afraid that he might not be able to ever answer the questions from the past.  It is a up and down ride waiting to find out who has done all of the crimes but the surprise comes at the end with the answer.  I don't think that I would ever suspect the final answer but I hope that you read it and see if you might.  I love this series and the television movies that go with them.  I might have to go back and watch of few of them this summer!!!  Hope you check out the whole Jesse Stone series especially this one (and stay turned for the next one on the way to my library soon).