Friday, March 30, 2012

Dirty Little Secrets for Otherwise Perfect Moms Book Review


I was back at the library today waiting to get the newspaper which wasn't coming so I decided to check out some more books.  I know that I have a problem and I need to get help!  Stop checking out books and read what you have!!!  Is there a 12 step program for those addicted to the library?

I looked at this little book and it jumped off the shelf at me so I read the beginning to see what it was all about.  Dirty Little Secrets from Otherwise Perfect Moms by Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth was quotes from mothers about life with kids.  There were so many quotes in the book that had me almost laughing out loud.  I sat down and read it right there by the shelf because it was such a fast read and finished it before I left the library.

Here are some of the quotes that I liked and there were tons of others:

"I tell my husband that I am going to the potty but actually I lock myself in the bathroom, sit on the edge of the tub, and read People."

"My kids don't wear PJ's on weeknights.  They go to bed in their school clothes so I don't have to fight with them about their outfits in the morning."

Check out the preview on Amazon or check it out at the local library but please only buy this if you are getting it as a gift for another mother.  It is a really fast read and not something you are going to need collecting dust around the house.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter Book Review

I broke my own rule and grabbed the book right after I got back from the library before reading the books that I had already at home!  UGH!


I really wanted to read this since I found it on the library website and I have been waiting ages in the cue.  There are currently 21 copies in the local library system and a waiting list of 22 people who are waiting for Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods by Jennifer Reese.  So if you are interested, get in line (or hope that your library system doesn't have the demand that ours does)   :)

I recommend this book/cookbook for the stories alone!  It is a page turner to see what great story the author is going to share next.  From raising her own chickens and goats to eating Turkish Delight at a small local store.  I have never thought about raising chickens or getting a goat to save money so I guess you don't have to be too worried that I am getting too many ideas from these books. 

However, I did find a ton of recipes that I want to try (38 to be exact).  From bagels to donuts which I have never tried and new recipes for fried chicken and tortillas.  This also reminded me to add to my list that I want to make pasta (it has been on my list forever but I need a pasta rolly thing...  Do you have one Ann??)!  I can't wait to try a few of the easier ones soon (saving pasta for a little farther down the line).  I will let you know when I test some of the recipes so that you can see the results!

Check out her blog at tipsybaker.com and see if you like her writing style because her book is just like the blog, just more of it (Lynn check out the story about the Hunger Games....  I couldn't read it for fear of finding out more about the book still in my pile to read but I am sure you will appreciate it)! 

I hope that you get this at your local library or bookstore and see if you like some of the recipes.  Let me know which ones make your list :)

Bran Muffins with raisins

I decided to make some muffins that I found a recipe on the web for but I changed it to fit what was in my house :)  On a recent post My Litter posted a recipe for Raisin Bran Muffins which I had never heard of but I thought sounded interesting so I saved it and here it is (or click on the link above for original post):

Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 cups Kellogg’s Raisin Bran® cereal
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free milk (or buttermilk)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or shortening)
Directions
1. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Set aside.
2. Measure KELLOGG’S Raisin Bran and milk into mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes or until cereal softens. Add egg and vegetable oil. Beat well.
3. Add flour mixture to cereal mixture, stirring only until combined. Portion batter evenly into twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin pan cups coated with cooking spray.
4. Bake at 400° F for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

I decided that I was going to make these muffins but my son and I are huge Raisin Bran fans so all of the Raisin Bran in the house is gone!!  My husband doesn't like raisins in muffins (I don't question since so many of us have texture issues).  Luckily, I had Whole Grain Total which was just sitting in my cupboard because it is a really boring cereal. 


I smooshed the Total into the measuring cup and made these muffins.  I added some raisins to my muffins and left the rest plain for my husband and son to eat.


After eating them and enjoying them hot out of the oven with butter, I highly recommend this recipe.  I am going to make it again and add blueberries to make a healthy blueberry bran muffin and use up the second half of the bag of cereal. 


Frugal Note and warning- An average box of cereal only makes two batches so it might turn out to be an expensive recipe if you are paying full price for cereal.

I hope you try it and your family loves it :)  I can't wait for the next batch!!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to Make Yogurt Smoothies

I had yogurt that I got for free during some of the sales and my son was only interested in drinking his yogurt so I decided that I would make a yogurt smoothie.  I mixed the yogurt with V8 Vfusion Smoothie drink.
I mixed the two together and he started to drink it through a straw but whenever he got to a chunk, he spit it out.  So not a successful plan and really messy!

I did one yogurt in the blender with the juice to cut up all of the strawberry chunks.
Then, I decided to be on the safe side and put it through a strainer to get out any remaining chunks.

I didn't get any chunks but I did get tons of seeds.  So I put it all in a container in the fridge and I was able to serve my son a healthy yogurt smoothie that he loves!!  YEAH!  I highly suggest it for anyone looking to have a yummy yogurt drink or trying to get a little one to try a yummy treat!!  Frugal Note:  If you don't have V8 Smoothies drink, you can use a little bit of any drink that goes with the flavor of yogurt or apple juice :) 

Hope you enjoy a homemade yogurt smoothie yourself soon!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Being Frugal Means to Me...

After a conversation yesterday, I started thinking about how I have changed things to be more frugal around our house.  This really still has me thinking as I am getting ready for my day this morning.  The first answers for me were couponing and budgeting but that wasn't the whole picture because I was trying to figure out what changed in my mind set other than the two basics so I came up with the Top 10 Ideas.

1.  Homemade Bread- I make a loaf of bread a few times a month to make the loaves from the store stretch a little longer.  My husband takes his turkey sandwiches on them and we also use the bread to make garlic bread and paninis.  The wonderful thing is that I already had a bread machine that I wasn't using so I just pulled it out and figured out how to make some yummy breads.  There are tons of recipes out there for those who don't have a bread machine, in case you don't have one but you can always ask a friend (odds are that someone has one in a closet).  In addition, I think that muffins or biscuits with dinner are a great addition.  I don't buy the Pillsbury Grands Rolls that we always used to have unless they are free after sale and coupon because I can make rolls myself (although I have a weak spot for the kind in the can).

2.  Be Green-  Stop grabbing for the plastic bags to put away food in the fridge.  I try to always use the reusable plastic containers so that I am not throwing bags away (or washing them as other family members do). 

Stop grabbing for that paper towel to do things.  I clean the counters and other household stuff with microfiber clothes and a pile of old dish towels stored under the sink with the cleaning supplies.  I dry hands with kitchen dish towels... who cares if I use one or two a day because they don't take up that much more room in the dishwasher.  I also now have a wet laundry basket next to the washer where all the semi-wet towels go so that there aren't stinky wet towels in with the other dirty laundry for a week. 

I clean my son's face and hands after a meal with baby washclothes.  We have a ton and why not use them for other than just bath time! 

Stop using paper plates and napkins.  We have done really well with the plates but I have just added the napkins to my list.  Again, adding a few napkins to the laundry doesn't add a lot more effort or use more energy.

Use reusable bags when you go to the store (and the library).  This makes me feel great about saving the environment but it also gives me $0.05 back per bag at Target and Giant... even worse if you go into DC and have to pay if you use a bag (Sorry Amy).  Of course, my husband is super sad because we don't have extra bags to use for trash can liners and the paper shredder.  A gift for him would be plastic bags so he might want to change this idea :)

I tried natural cleaners for the counters but I didn't like them at all so I haven't gone completely green like this one family that I saw on TV that only have one canning jar of trash for the year!!  If you would like to see the episode on the View, check it out here :)

3.  Inventory- Make sure you know what you have in your house.  How many times have you been at the store and decided to get another bag of rice, box of mac and cheese, or more ground beef. 

I have a list of what is in the freezer- one for meat and one for other items like rice and veggies and one for what is in the pantry.  There is nothing worse then letting good food go bad in your cupboards and buying more. 

Use what you have in your home already to make dinner.  Many people do a challenge to see if they can cook out of their fridge, cupboard, and freezer for a week.  I know that I can plan a month from the items in my house which is my goal so that I can continue to get things that we use at the lowest price to replace the inventory.

4.  Make a list of all of the meals you make-  This seems really easy but it might take a little bit harder then you think after you start.  After I wrote my first sheet, I reorganized it to categories of what protein it included so I could go right to the section that I wanted to make.  I have been trying to add to my recipe list to make sure that I get a bunch of cost effective recipes on my list.  This will also help when you are trying to come up with dinner plans because sometimes it is like writer's block and you can't come up with anything that you ever made and you are just sitting there starving.

5.  Be Creative-  If you have something that you have in your house, figure out how to use it.  There are tons of recipes out there on blogs and the internet. 

I have a cereal that no one in the house liked (that I got for free) so I found a recipe to use it to make muffins (post of that later since I just made those this morning). 

I got tomato paste free so I had to figure out a ton of uses for tomato paste.  I make enchilada sauce, sloppy joes, and still looking for other things that I will make with the rest.  Trying out different recipes is the best way to find new favorites for your family.

6.  Make homemade food- We don't often go out to eat and we don't order out food.  I plan my meals based on the items in the house and try to get a few favorites and special dishes in to make sure that we have great treats for dinner.  I also try to cook most of the meals from scratch and not from boxed meals or frozen meals but they are really great to have around when you are in a rush.

I also try to make breakfast for one morning on the weekend like pancakes, waffles, sausage egg biscuits, and other homemade muffins.  This is a really great treat for me because I love breakfast food and could probably eat that nearly every day.  I am using a bunch of free pancake mix that I got but I hope to make it more from scratch going forward.

Additionally, I make one or two treats a week like cookies or cupcakes so that we have a little something sweet to snack on during the day or after dinner.  It is nice to have something yummy around the house and really makes it feel like there is nothing you are giving up.  I would much rather have a homemade cookie then a store bought one. 

Special hint- Always bring snacks with you when you go out because then you will never be starving and have to eat something out if you don't want to.  It is good for the diet and the budget :)

7.  Use Everything-  Don't let leftovers go to waste.  If you don't think that you are going to eat them or use them, make sure you don't make as much next time.  If you have a little bit of leftovers, put them in the freezer to make freezer soup or some other creation.  During the week, leftovers are lunch the next day.  On the weekends, I make leftover fried rice, leftover paninis, and leftover quesadillas from any leftover items from the week. 

I save all of the bread heals from our loaves or any bread that is getting too crispy in bread bags in the freezer.  I have made them into homemade bread crumbs which saves time, money and waste :)  I am going to try to make stuffing with some of the other bread remains that I have next time and maybe croutons whenever we run out of the store bought one.

When buying fresh veggies, plan to use that fresh veggie in a few meals that week.  If I buy a head of lettuce, I plan for tacos one night, salad for another night, and a chicken wrap to use the lettuce up before it goes bad.  I try to buy smaller quantities of other veggies to make sure that I use them all in the intended meal.

8.  Plan Ahead-  Sounds like a dirty word but it gets more and more easier the more you do it because it is habit and your short cuts make you more time in your schedule.

Figure out a few things that you like to eat that you can easily make from scratch instead of from a box mix and plan ahead.  Get canning jars or plastic bags and mix all the dry ingredients in the container (you can reuse the plastic bags so it doesn't go against my other not using plastic bag rule).  Put a post it note or write on the container what else needs to be added (just like on a box from the store).  Add one egg, 1/3 cup oil, and 1/2 water and bake for 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. 

It takes very little effort to put together three dry ingredient pizza crust bags and throw them in the fridge or freezer for when you need to make your next pizza crust.  I have much less to pull out and I am ready to make dinner faster.  How much extra effort does it take if you are making cornbread for dinner and you put the same ingredients in a jar to save for next time.  That means that every other time you have to pull out all the stuff out of the pantry to do your two batches but the other time is super simple because most of the stuff is already in the jar.

Make things and put them in the freezer.  I am a horrible leftover person because I don't like reheating something that I ate yesterday to eat today.  I promise that you can find a few things that aren't going to be like leftovers when you make them and freeze the leftovers.  Brown rice is a great example (and some white rices).  Make a big pot and freeze them in labeled plastic bags pressed flat in the freezer.

When you are cooking dinner on Sunday, make a casserole for Monday's dinner.  Since you are already in the kitchen and making a mess, add an extra pan to the mix.  I make enchiladas and then on Monday, I don't make any mess in the kitchen except the pan that goes in the dishwasher.  It might feel like a little much the first time but I have done it a few times and one extra thing made on the weekend really makes the week start off right or when you have a really busy day planned.  Crock pot is also a big time saver for make ahead dinners (as long as you remember to put the ingredients in the pot).

9.  Read-  I love to read on the subject and learn about how other people do it.  Not everything is the same value to every family so it might take a few different sources to see what tips will work for you.  I know that some books say shop once a month and others say shop the sales; some say use coupons while still others tell you not to.  It is hard to find what is right but you want to make sure you find what is right for your family.

I love looking at different types of blogs.  I have found many that make yummy recipes that my family would love so those are the ones that I go back to.  I bookmark everything that I find in categories on my computer.  I have one for cooking, coupon matchups, and frugal tips.  I have gone back to many of them and found new tips that I can use.  I could spend days and days and not be at the end of the information that the internet has to offer :)

10.  Always thinking-  I am always thinking about new things that I want to try like gardening, canning, and making jelly.  Thinking ahead gives me time to plan and read to figure out if that is something worth my time to try to do. 

Hope this gives you some ideas on how to start being more frugal in very easy steps that don't require a lot of time or money to start.  I hope that you have a frugal day :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hopefully last trip of the month to Harris Teeter 3/27

This morning after my son's doctor appointment.  I decided that instead of staying home and cleaning up the house for our playdate, we were going to run errands!  He was already in his car seat so it sounded like a great idea. 

I ran into the house to grab a few things since this was not a planned outing.  First, we went to the bank drive through where he requested a red lollipop (a first time for this color choice so I was a little worried but turns out that candy is candy because he loved it). 

Then, we went to the library to return one book and get two others that just came in that I reserved.  I told him that we weren't looking for books and we could only do this (lollipop in mouth) if I carried him.....  There were no parking spaces up close so that was my exercise for the day but at least we didn't have to stop and get more books and DVDs for him this time.  In case you didn't know, our library has a limit of 50 items out at a time and last time we went over it because I didn't bring any books back and he wanted to check out another 20 books!!! Luckily, this time it was crisis averted with the help of the bank lollipop :)

Last stop, grocery store.  His favorite place to go with free cookies and a car shopping cart to drive.  We were in our green race car driving quickly down the aisle towards the cookies and I was trying to figure out a plan of what we needed.... probably something that I should have done before leaving the house but it is the last day of the sale. 

With my eagle eye, I saw that there was one more container of the Davidson's eggs which would only be $0.25 after triple coupon.  I was so excited because I had been to the store four times looking for them.  Who can pass up a dozen eggs for a quarter?  NOT ME!!!

Headed into the first aisle to see what other good stuff was there that we needed.  I had a rain check for Planters Peanut Butter which was 5/$8.  I had 5 coupons for $1 off so it was $3 for all the peanut butter.

Then we walked to see if they had the meatballs and bread crumbs but they didn't have either :(  Instead, I found the Special K Cracker Chips which were on sale for $2.50 and I had a $0.70 coupon so it was $0.40 after coupon. 

Then I decided that I would get a package of chicken but it needed to be around $3.35.  There was only one package that met that at $3.39 (3.42 pounds). 

I got to the register and crossed my fingers that this would all work out okay.  They rang through the rain check first on the peanut butter without any problems and finished the rest of the order.  The $7 Pampers credit came off with all of the other store promotions but I really didn't pay attention to the total.  I gave them my coupons and they all rang through without any issues and my final subtotal was $0.04!!!  Total OOP was $0.38 which was almost all tax :)  This might be my lowest trip to Harris Teeter ever!!  The receipt said that I saved $24.65 but that didn't even include the rain check discount for the peanut butter which was another $7.75 off shelf price so total savings was $32.40 for my quick trip into the grocery store!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 3/26

Monday- Leftovers
Tuesday- Buffalo Chicken Sliders and oven fries
Wednesday- Herb Chicken tenders and herb rice
Thursday- Orange Poppy seed Chicken with couscous
Friday- Chicken Quesadillas with chips and salsa
Saturday- Burgers & BLT/Kung Pao Spaghetti
Sunday- Leftovers/Pizza Roll

We are taking this week easy after having guests for the weekend so that we can try to get caught up on everything that we didn't get done over the weekend :)  Hope that you all have a great week too!!

Safe Money in Tough Times Book Review

Safe Money in Tough Times: Everything You Need to Know to Survive the Financial Crisis by Jonathan D. Pond jumped off the shelf at me because it seemed to be directed at the current recession problems.  It was really well written in plain English (not economic speak) by a PBS Financial Advice Expert.

The positives include the clear writing, simple ideas and variety of topics.  Do you want to know about what to do if you own a small business?  Do you want to know what to do when trying to decide when to retire?  Do you want to know how to invest?  The book covers all of the topics to let you know what to do.

The negatives include the strange format and the same information covered in many other books.  The breakdown of the information into 5 Parts with 32 Chapters total divided under the parts is a little hard to go back and find any information after you read it so make sure you take notes as you go through the book.  If you have read other books on the topic, there are no new ideas included in this book (possibly more details on different topics).

That being said, it is a good read if you are interested in the topic of how to survive the recession.  There are many books on the subject so look and find the one that meets your needs based on your age and stage in life.  If you want to check out more information on the author and links to other websites, look at www.jonathanpond.com/safemoney.html

I hope that you like it if you pick it up at your local library or bookstore.  Let me know if you get a chance to read it and what you think :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Naked Heat Book Review

I added one more book to my March reading list and tried to beat the due date to the library to finish it :)  Challenge on!  I finished the book the day before the due date. 

It took me a little while to re-adjust that these weren't the characters from the television show but it has an eerily similar body theft from the back of the coroner's van on the way to the morgue that same that one of the shows had previously.  I love these books even though they tend to confuse me at first because I have the wrong characters set up in my mind. 

I would recommend starting with the first book in the series but I like to read all books in order that they were intended so it is up to the reader :).  I do think that people who haven't even seen the show would like this book series.

This book is a very fast read with interesting characters which you get to know more with each page.  It seems to be a great second book building on the structure and background of the first book.  The police were working on quite a few cases at the same time and all of them end up being stranger than the last.  It was hard for me to put it down but I had to a few times in order to sleep. 

There were a ton of twists and turns and I never did figure out who did all of the crimes until the book unfolded and told me (except that I don't really try to figure these things out so most people probably figured it out).  It wasn't a really complicated but I don't think that the shows are either.  The book was just plain entertaining!!  I can't wait for the third book to be available since I still have it on hold at the library.

I hope that you like the review and pick up the book from your local library or book store!  Let me know what you think!!

Harris Teeter Triples Shopping Trip 3/22 Two Teeters in one day!

My son and I went to the Harris Teeter closest to the house to get a few things.  I used a rain check for the Honey Nut Cheerios which are my son's favorite and got them for free after coupon and evic coupons.  I got the Taster's Choice for my grandma which was also free.  Then the only thing that cost money was the two packages of wipes but my total OOP was $1.49 (saving over $12). 

Then we ran a million errands all over town- bank, post office, recycling center, library, CVS, Wal-Mart, and then last but not least the other Harris Teeter.  I don't usually travel all the way out to the other Harris Teeter but I had to go to Wal-Mart so I was almost there anyway.  They didn't have meatballs, breadcrumbs, or cheap eggs there either so I got another two Pampers wipes and paid $1.42 OOP (saving of $5.30). 

The great news is that there is a Pampers promotion if I buy $35 of Pampers products (sale price, not shelf value but still a good deal), then I get $7 added to my account.  I am super excited because my receipt says that I am already at $17.34.  That means that I need 6-7 more wipes and I get it.  Now I just have to find a bunch of computers to print the coupons on :)  I guess I will be heading back to Harris Teeter either tonight or tomorrow to see if they have any wipes left on their shelves.  Here is crossing my fingers that I can finish it before the end of triples and the promotion!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Giant Trip 3/21 even though I said I wasn't going to!

I looked at the deal on the General Mills cereal and the Ocean Spray Cranberry juice and I just couldn't pass it up.  I went in there after my successful Harris Teeter trip.  I got my two items (I was going to get the Barilla pasta too but it seemed like such a splurge since it would be a whole $0.19 after coupon and the coupons didn't expire until 4/12).

I decided to go with the Cookie Crisp cereal and tell my son that it was a special cookie treat.  I am sure that he will fall for it so that he can have his sweet treat in the afternoon and it really isn't that bad.  I tried to get the Cran Cherry juice at the store but the $0.50 uscan savings didn't come off so I decided to change to the Cran Grape.  I handed them my manufacturer coupons and store coupons and my total came down a ton.  The last store coupon wouldn't scan for the cashier but she told me that the woman at customer service would give me back the money.  I paid $0.80 OOP and then went to customer service and got $0.75 back for the coupon so my total trip for these two items was $0.05.  I should have gotten the bag credit but as usual, putting the bag credit on, took away the sales and coupons!  I think that this was the best deal of the day for a nickel OOP :)  I am going to get the pasta when I go back in next month to spend my $10 free money at the beginning of the month but with this last purchase of the month, my total is only at $159.81 for the month.  I stuck to the $160 budget last month but this month, I decided to let a little extra in the budget since it was a long month but I might not need too much to make it through the rest of the month with most of the month behind me and only one more trip to Harris Teeter and one trip to CVS planned (subject to change as I often do).  Hope that you are getting some great deals too!!!

Harris Teeter Triples Shopping Trip 3/21

I was sort of sad when I heard that it was going to be triples and not super doubles this month but now that I have looked at all the lists, I am much more happy now!  (My mother-in-law just got really sad that she doesn't have either so I know that I shouldn't complain).  Sad that I don't get my free Smart Balance milk that I have been waiting on forever since they are always out during Super Doubles.  I put together my list and pulled all my coupons last night and started to get excited by all of the deals.  I couldn't go until after I dropped my son at preschool so I didn't make it to the store until about 9:30 so they were already out of a few things.

I had to rearrange my list which is why I don't usually don't make one but I thought that I would get everything that I wanted (or at least I was hopeful).  I got the Fiber One Cereal, Mardi Gras Napkins, and Wolfgang Puck Sauce (with raincheck) for free.  The best deal that wasn't free was the meatballs which were $0.04 each (I got three in my transaction and then went back to get three more with my mother in laws card for my total of 6 because there is a limit of three coupons in one transaction).  I used some combinations of the evic coupons and manufacturers coupons to get a good deal on the Chex Mix ($0.49) and the Fun Da Middles ($0.09).  Then I decided that triples would be a good chance to try the new Kraft Fresh Taste with the $0.75 coupon so it ended up being $0.74.  I used a rain check to get the Planters Nut-rition bar for $0.25.  The Ricola Cough drops were $2.49 for the dual action so I only go one and after coupon it was $0.24.  My husband likes the Ortega Taco Seasonings and the pricing has gotten all the way up to $1.15 per packet!!!  Luckily after coupon, they were $0.40 each this week with triples. 

My late additions included the Vlasic Pickles which were normal price at $2.39 and after coupon were $0.74.  The Pampers wipes were $0.64 each after coupon.  I also got two containers of blue cheese so that I could make buffalo chicken sliders which is on the menu for next month.  With the coupon, these ended up being $1.25 each (instead of the normal price of $3.50). 

Total spent OOP was $6.76 (total savings was about $73 but it is hard to figure because I don't remember the shelf price of the Planters Nut-rition bars and the rain check overrides the price and doesn't let you know the savings).  I had a great check out person so that part was really great.  She thanked me at the end and said that she has had a ton of couponers all morning and it was really fun to see the total come down and showed me her thick file of coupons.  I was really happy leaving the store because I only spent a little bit and I actually got items that could make a meal.  Sometimes I end up with great deals but a drawer full of toothbrushes doesn't help make dinner :)  I really only had three grocery bags so it wasn't a huge shopping trip but I call it a great success!!  Even better because I am still under budget for the month :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I got 25 pounds of Flour!!!!

Okay, I have been having discussions with myself about how quickly I go through flour and what I need to do about it.  It was my new diet to not have flour in the house because that stopped me from eating all the sweets.  It was working really well until my cousin asked if we could make some cookies in response to seeing the yummy cookies at Panera.  So she went to the store and got flour and I made cookies that night which were amazing!!  I was going to make something sweet last night but I was really low on sugar, brown sugar, honey, and other baking supplies.  I decided that I would go spend my Wal-Mart gift card on some grocery items....  I guess this is why my son thinks that all stores are grocery stores !! (My son was trying to get my cousin to get some groceries while they were at Target but she told him that she didn't need any).  Anyway, I was in Wal-Mart crunching the numbers while trying to keep a three year old in the cart which was not easy.  My mom claims that she can always get a 5 pound bag of flour for $0.99 which I haven't seen in years but that makes it $0.198 per pound.  I usually find a 5 pound bag for $1.98 or $2.00 on sale which is $0.396.  I try to use coupons and different promotions to get a better price but it doesn't always happen.  My dad checked and the price at Sam's Club was around $0.30 per pound when you got a 25 pound bag.  I told him that it seemed crazy to get a 25 pound bag because where was I going to put it all.  My flour container only holds 10 pounds!!
 I probably should have figured that out before I went and bought the bag at Wal-Mart for $9.68 which is $0.387 per pound.  It was more expensive than Sam's Club but I had a gift card there so it wasn't any money out of pocket so I am going to count it as cheaper.  I hope that this holds me until I can find some great deals on flour.  If not, I have a little more money left on my gift card so I guess I could get more at Wal-Mart :)  Who needs a 25 pound bag of flour???  I guess I do :)

Giant Trip 3/20 for bread and juice

My son and I got in the car to run and get two things at Giant- bread and cranberry juice.  I checked online and I had a coupon for $0.50 off bread which we needed.  I also still had a coupon listed for the cranberry juice so I figured that I would try to see if I got the coupon a second time since it was still showing in my account.  I am still learning the ropes when it comes to Giants coupon programs but I figured that it was worth a try.   I grabbed the cranberry juice and my son helped me scan it and then cheered.  I guess it was exciting.  I put it in the reusable bag and we were off to the bread.  Lucky me, it is all the way at the other end of the store.  The price of the bread was $1.19 so after the $0.50 coupon it would be only $0.69.  I went to the regular check out lane this time since the reusable bags always seem to take away the deals that I am getting.  On the regular checkout, the cashier can remove the bags and the price goes back to normal. 

Of course, my bags made the price go up over a dollar so she removed them and the price went back down to $2.76.  Gotta love computers!!  The coupon for the cranberry juice did not come off just because it was still listed online didn't mean anything :(  Shucks!!!  I thought maybe it meant that I could only get one in a transaction.  I guess it will be super hard to track things if they don't change their website but I will certainly learn their systems. 

When I got home, I got a booklet of Giant coupons in the mailbox.  I am super excited to try them out because there are store coupons and they would be in addition to manufacturer coupons so I might be able to get some other great deals.  I am going to try not to go again this month which is great because the coupons are good until 4/12.  I will most likely go at the beginning of the month and spend my $10 credit for being active in the online community.  I love combining the credit with lots of great coupons to make my money go further!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

S'mores Bars

I have had such a sweet tooth recently and I am running low on lots of baking ingredients so there was a big limit on what I could make without granulated sugar and brown sugar.  I looked at a ton recipes the other day and remembered a s'mores recipe that I saw which I could change some stuff and make it work with what I had on hand.  I didn't save the recipe so I searched through my history... couldn't find it.  I opened google and started the search.  Luckily I found it!!!  In Katrina's Kitchen had Cinnamon Toast S'mores Bars that were super cute.  I didn't have fluff (or have a ever!) or those cute little marshmallows but I was set on making these.  I melted the butter and added a bag of marshmallows.

Then I got out the Frosted Toast Crunch which everyone taste tested when I got it and said that it tasted like marshmallow already so I figured that it was a perfect choice.  I poured 4 cups in my measuring cup to get ready.

Then I measured 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips so that I was ready to pour them in the pot.

Then I greased my 9x13 inch baking pan.  All the while stirring my marshmallows which were slowly melting and driving me crazy because I had to change the temperature a million times so they wouldn't burn.  After they were melted, I dumped the 4 cups of Frosted Toast Crunch into the hot pan and mixed them all up.  They weren't really mixing in well but I kept stirring.  I added the additional 1 cup of cereal and it was a mess.  I decided to add the chocolate chips and they started melting quickly in the pan!!!  UGH!  Must read directions, it says to pour the marshmallows into the cereal.  I guess I have made too many rice krispie treats in my time.  I dumped it all in my prepared pan to try to figure out if I could mix it up at all and get them to form into bars.  I greased a sheet of plastic wrap and moved all of the cereal into bars while causing chocolate to be everywhere.  I sprinkled a few more chocolate chips on top per the recipe and got the following:
It doesn't look too bad so I cut it into bars and they do look like a little a mess but they tasted pretty good!
I hope that you try to make them too and maybe do a little better.  I am going try them again and maybe do it right next time :)  Here is the recipe so that you can make them too.

S'mores Bars

Ingredients:
·        5 Cups Frosted Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
·        ¼ Cup butter
·        1 (10 oz) bag of Marshmallows
·        ½ Cup mini chocolate chips
·        Extra chocolate chips for sprinkling

Directions:
1.   In a large pan melt butter over medium heat.
2.   Add marshmallow and stir until melted.
3.   Remove from heat. Pour in the cereal and mix until coated evenly.
4.   Add chocolate chips and marshmallow bits, stir just to incorporate.
5.   Spread into a greased 9x13 dish. Using a piece of wax paper or buttered hands press down firmly.
6.   Sprinkle extra chocolate chips. Let cool until firm, and cut to serve.

CVS deals (current and upcoming)

I am super excited about two CVS deals which is great because I haven't been to CVS since February!! I haven't been really excited about the items that they have had recently so I have been out of the CVS ECB game.  For those of you left with no extra bucks, these two deals are great because they require no money out of pocket (except tax).

The first you can get now and the second one does not start until 3/25.  I think that I am going to get the Crystal Light packets now and check to see if they have the Milky Way Bunnies at CVS because I might have to check a few stores to find them.  For those who haven't gotten the Crystal Light packets before, they have them near the shelves with the water and sometimes on the water cooler in the store.  They don't have a ton of choices for flavors but free it always good to try them.  Last year, my CVS didn't have the Milky Way Bunnies which was super sad because then I had trouble spending my really great coupons!!! 

The even better news is that you get two green tag swipes towards getting your $1 back if you get them on different days so you might get another surprise $1 from the machine :)  I love using free items and money makers towards the green bag tag $1.  There are also reports of a CVS coupon from the red machine for $0.25 off the Milky Way Bunnies so you might have overage to pay for an extra bunny of other items in your basket.

Buy 2 Crystal Light Single Serve Packets $0.50 each
-(1)$1/2 Crystal Light Drink Mix Products from the 3/18 SS
Total OOP: $0

Here is the deal at CVS starting on Sunday, 3/25:

Buy 4 Milky Way Bunny or Snickers Eggs, 1.1 oz $0.50 each
-(2)$1/2 Mars Easter Candy Coupon from the 3/18 RP
Total OOP: $1
Get a $2 ECB (2 x $1)
Free + $2 Money Maker after coupons & ECB

Let me know if you get either deal and how it works out!  I am going to pull my coupons now and see how many I have so that I can go tomorrow.  Hope that you all enjoy the deal!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 3/19

Monday- Chicken Fajita Wraps
Tuesday- Spiedie Chicken with rice
Wednesday- Shake n Bake Chicken with mac & cheese
Thursday- Frozen Lasagna with rolls
Friday- Whole Wheat Pesto Linguine with garlic knots
Saturday- Leftovers/Whole Crock Pot Chicken with baked mac & cheese
Sunday- Whole Wheat Pizza Roll/Chinese

My parents come into town on Thursday night by dinner so I was trying to make the meals as easy as possible since we will have lots of things going on.  On Friday, little man is in preschool and I have the dentist for fillings so I am sure I will be numb through lunch but I made it soft just in case (plus it is Friday during Lent for my parents).  On Saturday, my dad has a meeting through lunch and we are going to be going to a book signing to see one of my friends new children's book at 3:00pm so I wanted to make sure that I had something ready to go before we left so I decided on Crock Pot Chicken but I am still figuring out which one so I will post the recipe when I do it.  On Sunday, my parents can't live without the Chinese food at our favorite Chinese restaurant so we will be getting for dinner.  Hope that you all have a great week and plan a menu that you can stick with :)

The New Frugality book

I have picked out this book twice at the library.  Last time I had to return it because I didn't want to keep renewing something that I hadn't started reading but this time I was set on finally starting The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better by Chris Farrell.  It was a slow start because the first 50 pages (or so) were dedicated to history and the Great Depression.  It was interesting information but I always have a hard time being interested in history and history with economics tossed in there was really tough for me to be super interested in but I kept reading.  It was only 218 pages so I was determined that I would get through it.  I am not sure if I would recommend it for other people to read because it wasn't as interesting as other books on the subject are but there was some information that was helpful (such as the websites listed below).

There were some websites to check out that I haven't gotten to yet but I have written on my list of things to check out (please let me know if one is a great resource for fun information and I will do the same):

http://www.fpanet.org/- to find a fee based financial planner
http://www.analyzenow.com/- planning tools (some free and others cost money)
http://www.esplanner.com/- basic financial planning tools with spending information
http://www.savingforcollege.com/- researching different 529 plans

Great resources for frugal ideas:

http://www.frugalliving.about.com/
http://www.frugalvillage.net/
http://www.sustainablog.org/
http://www.worldchanging.org/
http://www.simple-green-frugal.blogspot.com/
http://www.1greengeneration.elementsintime.com/
http://www.greendaily.com/
http://www.inhabitat.com/
http://www.green.yahoo.com/
http://www.greenerpenny.com/
http://www.freecycle.org/
http://www.treehugger.com/
http://www.greenmoneyjournal.com/
http://www.slowfoodusa.org/

I am hoping to find more interesting information on the websites when I get a chance to check some of this information.  Check out the websites and let me know if you find anything good!!!  Hope you like the review and let me know if you read it, what you think!  Remembering that it is written by an economist makes a different read :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Harris Teeter Shopping Trip 3/16

I decided after I got an e-mail from my mother in law that I had to go get the Gushers at Harris Teeter because they were on sale for $0.97 (limit 3 with evic registration and e-mail).  I looked at my e-coupons and I had two loaded on my card plus a paper coupon and the sale would make two of them free (actually a $0.06 overage) I figured that I would get something else to make sure I didn't have a negative total and have to make a quick decision at the check out lane which is always hard and more costly.  I found this one pound package of turkey on sale for $3.50 (normally $4.99) and I had a $0.55 coupon which made it $2.40.  Total OOP for my first transaction was $2.46.

My second transaction was two boxes of Gushers on my mother in laws card (and not to make it more confusing but I did try this one first but my coupon expired 3/15 and the customer service person wouldn't take it :( )  I put everything in the car from the first transaction and then decided to go back to check the price of the Country Crock margarine sticks because I had a coupon and I was running really low on them in the freezer but they were really expensive at the normal price over $3.  I walked back to the front of the store on the cleaning aisle (just a choice that I made to see what was on the aisle) and saw that they were out of Jet Dry and Finish tablets so I decided to go get a rain check.  The customer service person that I worked with was busy checking out people at a register and another woman came out of the office to help me.  YEAH!!!  I got the rain checks on the two items and then we talked about couponing because she had asked me about it previously.  She lost the websites that I gave her before so I gave them to her again and we talked about triples coming up starting March 21st.  As I was leaving, I asked about the one day expired coupon.  She said that the policy says that they don't take them but I could give it the cashier and they would do it today.  I told her that they wouldn't do it and I my stuff was actually still sitting on counter.  I grabbed it and she rang me out.  I paid $0.49 OOP for the other two boxes of Gushers.  Total cost OOP was $2.95 (total savings $14.17).  I love Harris Teeter!!!  What great customer service and great sales :) 

On an overall budget note, I have already gotten to $150.24 for the month and we are only half through the month with triples still to come!!  I am blaming the large Doritos influx and my son's ability to eat a sleeve of Ritz crackers in a sitting :) (but I am still really happy with my month to date numbers).  I am also going to go a little over last months budget of $160 depending on the deals at triples.  Hope your budget goals are on track for the month better than mine :)

Safeway Shopping Trip 3/16

This is something that I thought I would never say but I wanted to go to Safeway today.  I looked at the paper last night and they had Danimals Yogurt, Doritos and Ritz on sale.  I pulled out my coupons last night and I was ready to go!  I dropped my son off at school and he was running for the door so I had plenty of time to get all my errands done.  I found everything that I needed at the store plus a container of Country Crock Pumpkin Spread for $0.99.  I did one check out with 4 bags of Doritos, 2 boxes of Ritz, Country Crock and 2 packages of yogurt.  My total was $8.64 after sales and coupons (savings $25.21 or 75%).

I looked at my receipt while walking everything out to the car and the yogurt was on sale for $0.58 after store sale, store coupon, and manufacturers coupon so I put the stuff in the car and grabbed some more coupons and decided to get another 2 yogurts and 4 Doritos.  I splurged and got the taco chips for myself in case you see the different colored bag in the back.  While at the store, I ran into one of my coupon buddies in the chip aisle.  I gave her two of my Doritos coupons which helped her and made sure that I wouldn't come back and buy more (plus they expire on 3/17 so I wanted to make sure that they got used)!!!  I did my second check out and it was $4.52 (savings $18.82 or 81%).  I know that I shouldn't be excited by this many chips but I really was and I hope that we can make them last for a few months and not have to get other junk food :)  Total OOP $13.16!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More Books to Read

We are well into March (okay exactly half way) and I am well into my March reading list with only one book left.  I finished the January and February list without any problems but March was the first list that I wrote before the month started.  It has helped me to stay on track and maybe get even more motivated.  I have a ton of books in my pile but I tend to pick some at the top of my list and leave the bigger ones for later since it is hard to cart the book with me when it is bigger.  I am also putting the ones that I think aren't going to be as interesting to the bottom :(  It isn't the greatest practice but having a list to follow makes me read the books on the list to be held accountable.  Of course, my cousin pointed out to me that my list included only "real" books and no "fun" books.  I am trying to add more "fun" books to the list so that I do read something fun every month.  Not to say that some of the books that I read aren't entertaining but I see her point that I should be reading a light reading book, especially with summer right around the corner.

I try to pick a good mix of the books to try to read for the month so that my reading is balanced.  That way I don't read all the finance books one month and read all the mommy books another month (also helps work in a "fun" book).  The sad part is that I always pick out too many and get ahead of myself so I am trying not to get any other books out of the library before I get through most of the ones that I have already.  Most of my books are due before the end of the month so I will spend some time online renewing so that I have enough time to finish them all.  What is the saying, my eyes are bigger than my stomach?  Are my eyes bigger then my eyes in this case?  I don't know but I can't keep up with all the great books that I get off the shelf and add to my wish list.

I have finished 5 books and only have one more on the list for the month (and might try to fit in another Castle book depending on a family visit that I have at the end of the month).  I think that I am making great strides and might not have any books to read by the end of the year with what is left at the library :)  Only kidding!!!!  Going to lay down and start the next book.  Hope that you are reading some books and enjoying all the great ones out there.  Please let me know if you find any others that I should add to my list and I will try to find them at the library (That means you Lynn, add to the list so I know what to get- especially the "fun" ones).  I am going to the library to get two more books that I reserved on Friday morning after I take my son to school.  I am going to try to put them to the bottom of my list to read the ones that I have at home first but only time will tell :)  Crossing my fingers that I have the will power to not start with the newer books first!!  Happy reading to all and make sure that you give me any suggestions to add to the list.

Giant Trip 3/15 for potatoes and cranberry juice

I wasn't planning on another trip to the grocery store this week but I was going through my e-mails last night when I got a strange one from Giant that I haven't gotten in ages.  I opened it to find that they were offering additional coupons on some items to be loaded to my Giant card.  I added all that were available and then started looking to see what weekly deals I could match them up with.  Exciting news was that one of them was for $1 off a bag of potatoes and they were on sale for B1G1 this week.  Of course, that means that I don't know the price but I figured that it would work out to a good price after all was said and done.  There was another one with $0.75 off Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice (and there was a $0.50 Uscan it discount).  I knew that they were on sale last week and I was hoping that they still were.

This morning, my son and I got in the car and went to check the deals.  We got our scanner at the entrance to the store and told some other women who was using it for the first time ever how easy it was to do :)  See how helpful I was today!!  Then we headed to the potato section.  The signs are already down because it is the last day of the sale but luckily I grabbed the ad so that I would know what which one was on sale.  I scanned two bags of potatoes, first bag for $3.99 and the second was $0.  Then we went to check out the cranberry juice.  Double excited because it was still on sale for $2.50!!!  I grabbed the white cranberry strawberry which rang up as $2.00 after the uscan savings (HAHA, little does the scanner know that it will be $1.25 after my other electronic coupon).  I went to the self check out and scanned my uscan machine, then my card, and then I added on my three bags that I used.  It took off all coupons between the second and third bag so my total went from $4.24 to $6.50.  UGH!  I pressed the button and the lady came over and I told her about it.  She didn't understand what I was saying and told me to pay for it because the bag credit showed up.  Nope, still not understanding what I am saying.  A guy came over to help and I explained it to him.  He cancelled the transaction and was going to do it again.  I told him that I needed to use the scanner but since I already used that one, it was all over.  I had to go back to the beginning of the store and ring it all up.  Then I went to customer service to finish and the gentleman that was helping me came over and told her what to do about the bag credit.  She let me pay for the transaction and then she gave me a quarter from the drawer for the bag credit (even though I was only supposed to get $0.15).  Even though it was a little much with a three year old who already finished his bank lollipop, I think that it was a success.  My son said good bye and thank you to her and then said goodbye to the grocery store and we were on our way to the car with our three bags of heavy groceries (pictured below).
 Here is my receipt with all of the sale savings at the top of the receipt and the e-coupons at the bottom.  The total was $4.35 minus my shiny quarter so it was $4.10 OOP.  I think that it was a good trip to the store to get an interesting mix of groceries.
With this trip to the store, it brings the month total to $134.14.  Exciting news because the rumor is that Harris Teeter has triples next week starting on March 21st.  I will be there right after I drop my son off at school to get lots of good deals to finish out the month.  I can't wait to see what deals await since they haven't done triples in so long.  I was actually hoping for super doubles because I was hoping to use some rain checks from last time to get some deals that I really wanted before the coupons expire.  I am sure whichever one it ends up will produce some great deals and use up the rest of the budget left for the month.  Hope your month is going as well and you are getting lots of great deals!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quick Summer Dinner (or any day you are in a hurry)!

I know it is a little early for this post but for some reason, it is already hot here in VA.  My son was great all day with our adventure and then after he woke up from his nap, asked to ride his bike.  We just bought a helmet last weekend so he was ready to roll (figuratively because he isn't great at the peddling).  He put on his helmet and hit the road with Daddy.  I stayed behind to fold the load of laundry as quickly as possible so that I could get outside and see my little one on his tricycle for his very first time!!!  He was adorable and I took a million pictures of him riding around our street.  Anyway, with more days like this to come with the weather getting better, I thought I would post my easy dinner solution when the playtime gets longer and dinner needs to be on the table quickly when you finally make it in the house.  I have a few helpful hints for all families to enjoy the nice weather and still have a healthy dinner.



1.  Cut and Marinate Chicken Ahead and freeze.  I pick out what kind we are having and then the night before I take it out to defrost in the fridge (this one is soy ginger as noted on my menu plan).  It is great because it isn't just boring chicken and then dinner is ready made with flavor.  Helpful hint:  Make sure the grill is filled or else you are cooking it inside.... or that you know how to use it because I am grill challenged!!
2.  Make ahead rice.  I made a big pot of brown rice over a weekend and then bagged up serving size portions in bags to pile in the freezer.  The great part is that you can make different flavors or brown rice which takes more time and have it as needed.  Depending on your freezer, it takes a few minutes to cook straight from frozen.  I normally open the zip top a little bit and microwave for 1 minute at a time (smooshing the bag to stir the rice around in between).  It takes at least 3-4 minutes.

3.  Bag of frozen veggies, especially something that is an extra treat like edamame because you can eat it with your hands, even if the rest of the meal isn't ready yet :)  Mom looks like she planned it as an appetizer instead of just that she was starving!!

Best part is that the inside work doesn't take pots and pans or heat up the house and you use the grill so there is very little clean up!  I love a night when all the dishes go into the dishwasher and I don't have to do any other clean up :)  I hope that you follow the plan at least once and see how easy a home cooked meal can be for your family too!!!  Hope you got out to enjoy the nice weather too :)

This was my son saying "Look mom, I put my feet on the pedals!"  Not the best example but I thought it was funny!!!

Our Day of Adventure!!

This morning, my son and I started off on our adventure.  We returned DVDs at the library.  We went to the grocery store which is his favorite place to go which is a good thing since we go there a lot :)  We got the race car shopping cart so he was happy and turning the wheel.  And then Mommy stopped...there were balloons when we first walked in and there was even a color choice.  I don't usually give him a choice but I figured that we weren't really in a hurry so I sat there and waited for him to tell me.  He told me that he didn't want orange because he had that at home....  he didn't but I gave up since we were standing in the doorway making no progress so I picked yellow.  He was happy and made me tie it to the wheel of the race car so that he could drive with it.  The next stop was to get cookies which I put in his Cars snack bag that we brought from home.  I can't imagine why this is his favorite place to go :)  On to the task at hand, I got the last day of the sales with two bags of pancakes, 3 containers of Tetley tea and a loaf of bread.  Then in the yogurt section before turning the corner, we saw someone that we knew so we stopped to say hi and lost the balloon.  They got someone who worked there and got the balloon down and saved the day!  (P.S. Amy- Joe says hi).  The cashier was someone that I normally work with at customer service and she told me that she is going to start couponing and asked for some advice.  I gave her a matchup website to go to in order to start saving.  She seemed pretty excited so I hope that she starts couponing too because it always means that they are much better to work with because they know what we are trying to do :)  Total OOP is $4.28 (savings $12.95).

Then we came home and dropped off the groceries to make sure that we got the pancakes in the freezer since it was supposed to get hot today.  Quick stop and back on the road.  Next stop Target!  We went in and had a quick return of the Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice because it was $2.69 ($2.76 after taxes) and I got it on sale at Giant and Harris Teeter for $2 so I figured that we would save the money and return the one that we got at Target.  Then we went back to the car to drop off our coats because it was super hot per my son.  Then we road in the cart down the parking lot to make a return at Wal-Mart but that went on a gift card because I didn't have a receipt... that went well and we were on our way back to the car which I was sweating by the time that we made it there.  The temperature that we passed said 79 degrees!!!!  UGH, I must have skipped spring!! 

We were headed to see Aunt Kim at work at the hospital and drop off presents for her to take to Florida with her for Grammie :)  The gas gauge was heading towards the empty E so we stopped and got gas to my son's dismay because I had to shut off his CD that he was listening to.  Around $45 later, we were off to the hospital being thankful for the fact that I don't really have a big tank on my car anymore.  We got there in time to have lunch her so Dylan ate pretzels, graham crackers and a little bottle of water just like the patients get and played with Aunt Kim's ipad so the hospital might be his second favorite place to go.  We left there and stopped at Aldi which I told my son was Aunt Kim's grocery store so that he wouldn't expect the balloon and cookies :)  I had never been so it was a fun adventure for me too!! They had $0.59 eggs but I figured that my husband might freak out if I came home with my 7th dozen eggs, plus we don't have any more room on our egg shelf in the fridge :)  I grabbed a bag of tortilla chips for $0.99, head of lettuce for $1.19, and hamburger rolls for $0.59.  I knew that I needed my own bags but I didn't really have the whole check out process figured out.  We put the stuff and the bags on the belt while holding my son so that he could see everything happening.  Then, she put the stuff in a cart at the end of the aisle which is where it all started to go bad....  Then she put my bags in the cart with them.  I ran my credit card.... they don't take credit card DUH!  I put my son down and he was holding my bag, got out cash, paid for my $2.84 total with a $20 bill since I didn't have any change and there was only one line backing up behind us.  Then I tried to put my stuff in the bags but my son dropped our other bag on the floor.  I asked him to pick it up and he started dancing around it saying that he was picking it up but he never touched it.  The lady was then trying to give me my change back and I was about to give up.  I had one bag done, grabbed the change, and the rest of the stuff and walked over to a shelf toward the window.  Luckily, my son followed me because I didn't have any more hands left.  I got everything in the bags, all the money back in my change purse, and decided that I had to use the bathroom.  We walked over with all the bags and there were no hooks in the bathroom.  I asked my son if he could hold the bags and not let them touch the floor.  He said yes and then put them down on the floor.  What can you expect from a 3 year old?  Note to self, wash reusable bags.  I went as quickly as possible and we were off to the car for the 30 minute trip home.
 I noticed that I missed a call from my mother so I picked up the phone and called her back.  I also wanted to let her know about my trip to Aldi which just opened by her house too so it is her favorite store (she doesn't like grocery stores so this is saying something for her).  We were talking on the way home and my son was in his seat making his trains yell at each other.  I could tell that he was exhausted but he was fighting against it.  He fell asleep while I was still talking to my mom so I was pretty excited that we were going to get a nap today!!!!  We got home around 2 pm and I brought in a load of stuff from the car and went back out with my son's blanket.  I got him out of him seat and we went straight to bed.  We are going to have to stay this busy every day if it gets me to a nap :)  Time for me to take my nap too before he wakes up!!  Hope that you had a productive day too :)  Total OOP for the whole day of entertainment was $4.36 (after return).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 3/12

Monday- Tacos
Tuesday- Soy Ginger Chicken with fried rice
Wednesday- Philly Cheesesteak Pasta
Thursday- Zesty Italian Chicken Wraps
Friday- Chicken tenders with oven fries
Saturday- BLTs and Burgers/??
Sunday- Leftovers/??

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hot (Broke) Messes: How to Have Your Latte and Drink It Too Book

So I picked up Hot (broke) Messes: How to Have Your Latte and Drink It Too by Nancy Trejos because it had a catchy title (and a pretty pink cover).  How can you not want to read it?  Open to the first page and see that it was also set in DC.  I put it in the bag and brought it home from the library.  It is a fun read that gives one woman's story (and a few friends) through her adjustment to living in the expensive city of DC in her 20's and 30's and her decline into debt because of the lifestyle.  It was a fun read that kept me interested from start to finish.  I think that it is a great read for anyone starting out in life (especially in an expensive city like DC) but since I am a little past that, I could only relate to what had already been in the past for me.  There were some things that rang true about going out to be with friends and how it is costly.  It is hard to adjust to life on your own and figuring out many mistakes by trial and error.

But there were more things that I couldn't sympathize with like going to a college where everyone has money so you use a credit card to make up the difference.  I was raised to pay off my credit card every month and only use it against money in the bank so I never used my credit card except to buy my books at the beginning of the semesters.  Not to quote the famous mom line, "Would you jump off the bridge if your friend did?" but it is what always pops into my head when this subject pops up.  I went to a school with a ton of "trust fund" kids but I searched for and found the friends that were more like me that related to the fact that I couldn't afford to go out to the bar and drink every weekend, I couldn't order pizza on a Friday night because I was hungry, and I couldn't afford to go sit at a coffee shop on a Saturday.  The author (and many other college students) find it a hardship to not keep up with others around them and the activities that they are doing.  I say, get better friends and work to make life work within your means.  Take that extra cup of cereal from the dining hall on the way out and you have a late night snack with no more money out of pocket.  Buy a package of muffin mix and cook it up in the dorm oven (or toaster oven in my room).  It doesn't mean that you can't hang out with friends who are buying pizza or drinking at bars but you can't afford to do it so don't put it on your credit card to try to keep up with them. Sorry for the rant but this is a touchy subject for me!!  The same holds true in your current life.  My girlfriends and I wanted to get together for lunches and we always ended up at a restaurant spending lots of money (and sadly holding a table too long for waitresses that probably wanted us gone) just to catch up.  The idea wasn't to spend a ton of money but it was the easy way to catch up with each other.  I suggested a pot luck meal once a month where we got together and caught up.  This meant that we could do it more often and it would be way cheaper for all of us with a big hearty meal with dessert and drinks and not cost anyone a fortune.  I couldn't afford the restaurant meal in my budget and my friends agreed to the pot luck... problem solved and I still have those same friends.  I am not saying it was that easy in college but if your friends don't like you for who you are, why are they your friends?  Like I always tell my cousin, the rating of a friend is when your car is dead on the side of the road, who is coming to get you (sorry Matt B, Amy/Tony, and Mr. Payne for actually ever having to test that one-does it sounds like I always need someone to help me??? The first was a flat tire after it was slashed and the other two or maybe three were batteries dead...who knew you had to replace that thing and turn off your interior lights? OOPS!).  If you can't list a friend as someone who is going to be there to come and get you, then they really aren't your friends so you really need to treat them more as who they are- acquaintances.  Don't put more effort into them then you should because they aren't going to be there when times are tough for you and relationships are supposed to go both ways. Of course, to each their own and people can chose to live and go into debt if they want to but then they don't have the right to complain about it :)

So after that long winded explanation, I would certainly recommend this for people starting out or people who want an entertaining read.  It doesn't provide a lot of concrete information (some listed in appendix for easy access) except to get a financial planner and cut down on expenses but the comical stories and real money discussed is interesting enough to make up for it.  I would highly recommend it just to hear about the authors life through breakups, job changes, travel adventures and working to get out of debt.  Who doesn't like to know that you aren't the only person out there that has made mistakes and the example of how someone got out of it and fixed their finances.  Please pick it up at your local library or bookstore.  Let me know what you think!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Heat Wave book review

I added the Castle DVD series to my wish list for Christmas and up popped this book on Amazon.  I was interested but it didn't go any farther until I finally decided to look it up at the library and reserved it just a few weeks ago.  The first two books came in and I went and picked them up.  I decided to add it to my reading list for March since I have already read three books and only have two more on my list.  Since I like to read in order, I started with Heat Wave, Premium Edition (Nikki Heat, Book 1) by Richard Castle.  It is a short book at 198 pages but it keeps you reading the whole way through.  It took me a couple pages to get used to the idea that it wasn't Beckett and Castle like in the show but it was a great read once I got over that initial issue.  It had you going from start to end (and unless you are my mom who always over thinks and tries to figure out the bad guy) and has tons of twists and turns along the way (so hopefully you aren't like my dad who puts it down when he figures out who did it).  I highly recommend giving the Nikki Heat series a try and see what you think and I don't think that you will be disappointed.  There is murder (actually three), theft, and mystery.  I might have to skip ahead on my list and read the second book this weekend!!  I hope that you like this book when you pick it up at your local library or bookstore.  Let me know!!

Harris Teeter Shopping Trip 3/9

I wanted to run in and get a few things with my $4 catalina including the eggs that were on sale and the pancakes.  I printed out my list the other day when I saw what was on sale for the week so that I would be partially ready.  I stopped first thing to get my papers at the library which was a good thing because there were some good coupons in the paper and I used three of them for my trip. 

First, I stopped to look at the meat but the pork on sale was huge pieces and the cheapest/smallest cut was over $8.  I don't think that I want to make a pork roast that big for my first time so I decided to move on to the next thing on the list.  The eggs!!  There were only a few left on the shelf.  They have the regular brown eggs for $3.49 and the cage free for $3.99 and both were B1G1.  I had a $0.75 coupon so I went with the regular brown eggs (after coupon, they worked out to $0.25 a dozen).  Of course for those of you really thinking, I have four dozen eggs from the last sale in my fridge and no flour anywhere to bake with :(  I can't pass up such cheap eggs so now I have 6 dozen eggs which I am sure that I will go through in no time... once I restock the flour!!!  Then, I went to get the Tetley Tea Bags which were normally $2.65 and on sale B1G1 and I had a $0.50 so they ended up being $0.32 per box.  I got one Ocean Spray Cranberry juice that was on sale for $2.00 and two bags of pancakes that were $0.92 each.

I decided to grab the Yakisoba noodles when I saw that they were on sale for $1 and I knew that I had a rain check to get them B1G1.  I remembered the coupon on the front of this Sunday's coupons that I just got so all together that would make them free.  Sadly, it didn't work out that well at the register because I got the one person at customer service who makes things more complicated then they have to be so instead of giving me the sale price, she rang the items up as grocery at the normal price of $1.19 so each container ended up being $0.10 instead of free.  Still a great deal but then she had to stay to ring everything up because the coupons had to be overridden at the end too because the computer said that I didn't buy those items.  If I had just held off on my Harris Teeter card, she never would have known that they were on sale because they would have come off at the end!  In addition, my rain check was for 10 noodles or B5G5 but I was only getting 6 because the coupon policy says that I am only supposed to use 3 coupons.  I tried to stop her while she was ringing up 5 at the cost but she just thought I didn't get what she was doing so I waited until the end and tried to re-explain that I was only getting 6 and not 10 that she was charging me for :)  She got it and we did the millionth void on this order.  Of well, lesson learned.  It also made the whole check look funny because there aren't totals next to any item the way that there usually is but luckily I didn't get much this time to matter.

I got all of the above in the pictures for $2.31 OOP and saving $31.89 (part from the raincheck).  It is basically what I would have spent on the Ocean Spray Cranberry juice or about $0.17 for each item.  It was a headache to check out but in the end it was all worth it.  The way I look at it, the customer service headaches are way easier to deal with then some of my past bosses were and this is what I do for a living now so I have a lot fewer complaints.  I only have to deal with them for 30 minutes at most and then I am done with them but my boss I had to put up with for 8-12 hours per day.  I will take the current situation over that any day :)  A bad day couponing beats a good day at the office :)  Hope that you got some great deals this week and I would love to hear about them!!!