Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Treasure hunt!

I've always said that the secret to bargain hunting is to look in places where you don't expect to find bargains.

One of my favorite stops at the local supermarket is the markdown table. I've found some interesting things there: Last Christmas they had cloth placemats and napkins for around 50 cents each. (Guess what went into my gift stash?)

Anyway, this past week, the table held another goodie: Printer ink! Yep, black inkjet cartridges, compatible with my printer model, for $5 each!

I bought four and did a little happy dance as I left the store. I figure that if these work (and I am keeping the receipt), I've saved at least $40 in ink costs. Yahoo!

Water torture: Part II

Back in October, I was ranting about the way higher-than-normal water bill we received; the one that said we used 1.5 more water than usual.

Well, we never did figure out what had happened that month. Apparently, it wasn't a leak, because our usage levels remained normal.

Unfortunately, the financial pain continued in November ... our utility has the unfortunate habit of estimating usage every other month. Ouch!

But a quick check of the meter did show that our usage was way under the estimate.

So finally, some good news. This month's bill: under $3!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post-Christmas musings

Hope everyone had a great holiday!
  • We'll be getting in line at the returns desk ... not that we misfired on a gift, but because of our hit-and-miss shopping this year. We bought a couple of things -- then stumbled onto something better at another store. Then there was the ... "Does so-and-so have this particular CD? Well, just in case, let's buy this one too while we try to sort it out."
  • Got a chuckle from DH when he saw me salvaging bows and gift bags and tissue paper to use again. (and yes, you can iron tissue paper ... just make sure the iron is set on low. It won't be as crisp as new paper, but it works well to line boxes.)
  • I'm glad I stuck with the inexpensive ribbons for our outdoor decorations. We've had a windy/rainy holiday (as opposed to the folks who were buried in snow). Two days in a row we've gone out to find a ribbon in pieces, strewn across the yard. Actually, I can fix them, but eventually, they're going to get beaten up beyond repair. When that happens, I won't feel guilty about pitching them, LOL!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve


Wishing all my friends in blogland the happiest of holidays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The mad dash to Christmas


We're in the home stretch of baking and buying here at the casa de chaos. Just a few musings:

  • No offense to the post office, but its frustrating to come up with frugal gifts, only to spend that much and more on mailing them.

  • We seem to be getting fewer holiday cards from friends, and more from businesses. Not that I can talk: About a third of my list will be getting e-mail cards again this year.

  • I don't feel old until I get cards that read, "Johnny is graduating from college this year ..."

  • My holiday and gift pantries have come in handy once again. Didn't need any extra wrapping paper or ribbons, and some of the freebies I stashed away are going to help round out some Christmas baskets.

Hope all your holiday preparations are going well!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thanks, I'll do the work

It's Christmas baking time here at the casa de chaos. We've been making cookies and quick breads for gifts and the office pitch-in.

A couple of the recipes call for orange peel. Boy, talk about price shock! More than $4 for a small bottle. (I'm really spoiled, since I bought a bottle of lemon peel at the salvage store for $1.)

Anyway, I headed over to the produce department. They had navel oranges (with nice thick peels) for 40 cents each. I bought two.

We washed them, then took off the peel and chopped it up. We partially dried it in the oven, then took it out and let it sit in a bowl on the counter to finish drying.

So for 80 cents, and a few cents worth of gas for the oven, we probably got the equivalent of 2 small bottles of peel. Sweet!

(edited ... I have to learn to actually fill the containers instead of estimating)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quick craft: Paper clip angel

I just had to pass on this cute, easy-to-make little ornament -- an angel made from a paper clip (or paper clamp, which I think is the correct term).

To get the original instructions, go visit Heavenly Homemakers (Thanks, Laura!).

Now, if you're like me, and don't have any beads in the house, give this a try:

Get a small button with a shank on the back and a thin cord. (I used rug-weight thread.) I used about 6 inches of cord .. you can use more or less depending on the size of your angel and the tree you're hanging it on.

Thread the cord through the button, loop first, then take the cut end and thread it under the "neck" of the clip. Put cut end through the loop and pull up. Presto! One angel with head. Tie the cut ends off in a small knot.

I didn't want my angel's head to sit directly on the neck, so I turned it over, moved the button up a little, then used a piece of sewing thread to tie off the cord under the button shank.

It might make a good office-type ornament, don't you think?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Today's tip

Should you want to brew a large amount of loose tea and don't have a tea ball big enough for the job -- a coffee filter and a few well-placed staples make a dandy tea bag.

Come to think of it, a square of cheesecloth would work nicely, too!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Soup for you!

We're on a soup kick here at the casa de chaos --- which is a bit chilly these days because the temperatures have dropped. Though, really, the soup-making is designed to use up the excess produce (especially that bargain-priced celery I couldn't resist).

Anyway, I thought I'd share a couple of recipes ..

First is cabbage soup, which has a bit of an Italian flavor:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/healing-cabbage-soup/Detail.aspx


Then there's my current favorite, Sweet Potato Bisque. It is a bit sweeter than pumpkin soup:
http://suzette.typepad.com/the_joy_of_soup/2003/11/sweet_potato_so.html

This site has other recipes -- haven't tried any of them yet, though!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

November freebies

Looks like last month was free food month!

Eucerin lotion
Clorox wipe
Chex mix (FAC)
2 cups Starbucks coffee
Garnier eye cream
quart of Glidden paint
2 pieces pumpkin pie
2 McD's iced coffees
1 Chick-fil-A sandwich

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bye, bye Mr. Pumpkin


The annual dispatching of the pumpkins was a little late this year. (Which means no homemade pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but we managed, LOL!)


There were 2 pumpkins this year, both a bit smaller than usual. One-half a pumpkin was roasted, the rest were boiled and turned into puree. Oddly enough, both produced the same amount of pulp -- a little over 8 cups.


Now to find room in the freezer!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like

It looks like Christmas at my house ... at least outside. (No, I don't mean snow .. though that's supposed to show up sometime this week.)

We took advantage of the last decent weather day (and part of a not-so-decent-day) to put up the outside lights.
I've noticed folks aren't putting up as many lights these days -- I'm guessing it's because they don't want to add to the electric bill. A shame though, the lights make things seem a bit more cheery.

Now for today's question: Why is it that a set of lights will work perfectly when you plug it in inside, but the minute you put them on the house, a half-dozen or more bulbs will go out?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Being a pack rat pays off

My sample-collecting brought me a small pile of stationary notions -- like sticky notes and divider tabs.

The sticky notes do get used (if I don't write a note .... it doesn't get remembered, LOL!). But the tabs sat in the bottom of the desk drawer.

Until now, that is.


With both of us taking classes, we suddenly have lessons -- and printouts -- to organize. And when DH suggested we buy some divider tabs, it was great fun to pull out the samples and say: Presto! Here they are!

Now if I could just figure out how to reduce the amount of printer ink we use!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A semi-homemade Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner was going to be a low-key affair this year: just DH and myself. And since we both were working, dinner had to be on the table pretty quickly.


So, this was our lineup:

  • Turkey roast (yeah, a bit processed, but it was turkey, and had gravy.)
  • Stuffing mix
  • Cranberry sauce (canned)
  • Fresh sweet potatoes (cooked in the microwave)
  • Green beans (from our garden)

I would have preferred a regular bird (or a turkey breast), but I'm not going to beat myself up about it. Actually, it tasted pretty darn good! And since everything was bought on sale (except the beans), we came in well under $10.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks


I'm thankful for all of my friends in blogland! Have a wonderful holiday with friends and family!

Friday, November 20, 2009

That sick feeling

Ah yes, it's November. Time for the annual weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth -- otherwise known as re-enrolling in a health insurance plan.

Sigh. Once again, the number of available plans have decreased. Last year it was four, this year it's two.

So, this year's choice is very simple: A) Keep the plan similar to what we currently have. Only one problem -- our premiums would cost an additional $1,000 for the year. B) Choose a high deductible plan. Our premium costs would remain the same, but should there be a serious illness or injury, we could possibly pay out that $1,000 and more.

There are other considerations, of course. But given the debate in this country over health-care reform, I can't help but see a certain irony in all this ...

Update: Apparently, the company that handles prescription drugs for one of the plans has decided that its formulary is a state secret. Since we've been burned in the past by an insurer that kept denying prescription claims, (and what kind of company doesn't cover an antibiotic?) we always check. Took 4 phone calls to find a rep who would stop the robot-speak and was actually "allowed" to tell us what they cover.

Update 2: Apparently I screwed up and ran afoul of the rules regarding health savings accounts and flex accounts ... so I have to change my plan ( which fortunately, I can do.) Gaack!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No go on Eggos

From CNN Money ...

Better hoard your Eggos!
Grocery stores will be experiencing a shortage of the waffles until mid-2010 due to problems at two bakeries, a Kellogg's spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
Flooding at an Atlanta bakery during heavy rains in October forced Kellogg, which makes Eggo products, to shut down production temporarily, said company spokesman Kris Charles. Plus, equipment at Kellogg's largest waffle facility, based in Rossville, Tenn., needs extensive repairs.

And if you like canned pumpkin on your waffles, you're really in trouble, LOL!
Not that I like to see a business having problems, but ... unless there's something magical about this brand ... hasn't it occured to anyone to just make their own? Or try another brand?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Substitutions

One advantage to keeping a pantry is that you can use the "goodies" for other purposes.

We had oatmeal for breakfast the other day ... it's healthy, but let's face it, it's bland. So, I was going to put chocolate chips in it ... except that I used them for trail mix. (oops!) But, we had cinnamon chips, so I used those instead. Yummy!

I would have used raisins, too, but the last of those went in the apple bread, LOL!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No turkeys here

Well, so much for the word that 40-cent-a-pound turkeys would be available again today. At least not at the store I went to. Sorry, haven't gotten a new shipment, I was told, and they weren't sure when one would arrive.

I'm not going to stress about it. I have a nice coupon for another company's turkey products, so I'll see who has the best price on turkey breast in the next week. Besides, there may be some good after-holiday sales!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You learn something every day

I stopped in at the big-box store (yeah, that one) earlier in the week to see if they had any their special 40-cent-a-pound turkeys left. No luck, so I decided to ask for a rain check. The answer: "We don't do rain checks." Guess when they're out, you're out of luck.

Maybe I'm a bit daft, but I never realized that they didn't offer rain checks. On the other hand, I can't remember ever being in a situation where I wanted a rain check from them.

But it's all good ... I'm reading that the cheap turkeys will be back on Saturday. Perhaps I can snag one then. If not, well, I won't be asking for a rain check, LOL!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Catching up


We used the wonderful weather over the weekend to catch up on yard work and a few other get-ready-for-winter chores.

Ever notice how one job leads to another? Some of the insulated window glass had to be replaced. (yep, let's watch the $$$ fly out the window) The new glass had to be cleaned, of course. And that's when I began to notice things, like:
  • Oh yeah, the curtains really need to be washed; and

  • Oh, crud, I really need to caulk around this window; and

  • Oh %@@!!, I'll need to do some touch-up painting by the caulk.

See what I mean?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sometimes it all works out

Today's shopping included a stop at CVS for a couple of things, and a good deal on allergy meds to help me roll my ECBs. To make this work, I needed the $5 off $20 coupon I'd printed out last week (in addition to my coupons for the meds and my ECBs)

When I got there, I realized I'd left the $5/$20 coupon at home! *!!@#

But I still needed the other items, so I decided to go in. Inside, I waved my loyalty card at the price scanner to see what coupons would pop out. Well, darned if the first coupon out wasn't a $5 off a $15 purchase! Yee haw!

So I did the deal. And when I got home, I checked the forgotten coupon: It's good for several weeks yet, so I'm ready for the next trip.

Friday, November 6, 2009

One down!

I'm doing the happy dance!

Finished my 1st course .. and aced the exam! (Though that took a bit of studying, I tell you.)

Now, on to the next course. And the next ....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

October freebies

Not a high volume month, but some of these were very nice:

1 Starbucks Via Italian roast packet
2 Green Giant Steamers (FAC)
2 Bumble Bee tuna pouches (FAC)
Nature valley nut clusters
Nature Valley trail mix bar
2 EmergenC
2 Kashi Go Lean Crunch (FAC)
1 Secret Clinical
Zyrtec
Fructis shampoo, conditioner
Curel
Olay Pro X face cream
Betty Crocker au gratin potatoes
Macaroni Grill picatta chicken kit
Wanchi Ferry orange chicken kit

Monday, November 2, 2009

Success!

Back in March, (gee whiz, where has the time gone?) I wrote that we were haunting the thrift stores, looking for a part for our breadmaker.

Finally, success! For $10, we got a breadmaker with a blade and pan that are exact fits for the current machine.

I don't know if the new machine works ... might want to check on that, since I'm beginning to wonder how much longer the current machine is going to hold up..

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween




Hope your 'hauntings' are happy ones!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If at first you don't succeed


Punt!

A couple of years ago, after our mulberry tree produced a bumper crop, I decided to make jelly.

Nice idea, one problem: The jelly wouldn't jell. I followed the directions; the pectin was fresh. But all I had was syrup.

Folks on the frugal forum suggested I bring the liquid to a boil again, then stir in a package of raspberry gelatin. It thickened it some, but it would never be mistaken for jelly.

So, I decided to call it syrup, and we eventually found uses for it. (With wine vinegar and spices, it made a nice salad dressing.)

But I still had a couple of containers of mulberry juice taking up room in the freezer.

So, I tried a recipe for syrup.

.... well ... perhaps it will thicken as it sits in the fridge. But right now, I seem to have mulberry juice.

I'm not quite sure what to do ... maybe I'll try the gelatin trick again. Maybe it will turn into jelly?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Uh oh

The dishwasher is leaking ....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reclamation project: Mending


I've let my mending and patching projects go lately, and the basket is overflowing.

Most of it seems to be DH's pants ... he tends to put holes in the knees, and in a couple of cases, there are holes above the first patches I put on!

I don't have anything in my material stash that would make a proper patch, so I've done the next-best thing -- cut up a few pairs of worn-out pants and shorts in (close to) matching colors.

So far, I've managed to reclaim 3 pairs of pants that DH can wear around the house, or for work outside.

I suspect the patches are going to outlast a couple of pairs, LOL!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Water torture


I'll spare everyone in blogdom my opinion of the local water company. But suffice it to say, rates have been going up sharply ... and will continue to go up sharply. So we've been vigilant about water usage here at the casa de chaos.

And we've been doing well: Our actual consumption has gone down, even though the bill has gone up.

Until a couple of days ago. The newest bill shows that we used 1.5 times more water than the previous month. Or any other month this year.

We're trying to figure this out. There's no sign of a big leak. There is a bit of seepage in one of the toilets, though I'm doubting it would add up that much. (memo: call plumber this week.) The previous month was estimated ... perhaps we did use more water that month? Though we've had so much rain that I haven't needed to water the garden.

Unfortunately, a meter check ruled out the possiblity that it was misread. (darn)

In the meantime, I'm going to go beat my head against the wall ...


A note: Thanks to those who offered condolences and prayers for my family.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sad day

I won't be posting for a few days ... we've had an unexpected death in the family ... please keep us in your prayers.

My $1.95 CVS trip

I had some ECBs to roll this week, and the only really good deal seemed to be the soy candles, which I've been getting for Christmas gift baskets / hostess gifts. I did get a nice surprise: When I scanned my card in the store, I got a coupon for $5 off $15!

So, here's the rundown:

1 Glade soy candle $6.99
1 bottle vitamins $9.99
2 Hershey's Bliss bars $1.33 (buy 1, get 50% off the 2nd)

Coupons:
$5 CVS coupon
$7 ECBs
$3.50 for the candle
$1 for the vitamins
.79 for the candy bar

Total: $1.02, plus tax of 93 cents. Plus $6.99 back in ECBs in the candle deal.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oops!

I hadn't intended to make biscuits with dinner, but I opened the refrigerator to find that one of the cans had popped. So, biscuits it was!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reclamation project: Blanket


I have one of those Velux blankets ... that's the velour-like material that has a foam backing. The material makes a very warm and snuggly blanket. But it also has one drawback: After a couple of years of use, it falls apart.

And that's just what happened when I washed said blanket. It came out with a big hole in the bottom. (Not to mention the #%!% mess in the washer. Ugh.)

I trimmed off the damaged part ... about 5 inches, which made it too short for the bed. My first plan was to buy a new blanket and shift this one to the guest room. But I don't need another blanket for that bed. And it is very warm.

So I decide to sew a new piece of material on the bottom. (Who's gonna see it under the bedspread, right?) One problem: Can't find Velux at the fabric shop. But the clerk had a suggestion: How about fleece? It's close in texture and warmth. And it doesn't unravel, so no need for a hem.

And luckily, it was on sale. I bought 1/3 of a yard for the grand total of $1.50.

Now it's a good thing that this is under the bedspread. Believe me, this is no testament to my sewing abilities! Both of these materials tended to slide: I spent a lot of time just keeping the needle on track. I also should have paid more attention the nap on each side when I pieced the material.

But it worked out. And the blanket is saved for another season! And if it falls apart in the next wash, I'll just cut off the fleece and make a pad for the cats to sleep on!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Garden report: Final harvest


Well, the garden is done for the year.

Saturday night's forecast called for frost, so I decided to pull everything inside. So, did it frost? Er, I don't think so.

On the other hand, it's been chilly and cloudy, with more of that on the way. So I'm doubting that anything will ripen properly.

So, I have a small box of green tomatoes, and four large semi-ripe tomatoes sitting on my kitchen windowsill. We did have a sunny morning, so I put the box o' tomatoes outside to sunbathe, LOL!

I have a half-dozen bell peppers to put in the freezer, along with the Romas I'd pulled in last week. And lots of green beans!

I pulled in the herbs and lettuce ... they'll get to go out and sunbathe, too, LOL! I did cut some of the lettuce for Sunday's dinner.


Friday, October 9, 2009

September freebies

I think I'll just officially call this Cereal Month. We certainly got enough samples.

Pop Tart
Country Crock (FAC)
Total Blueberry
Honey nut Cheerios
Gain detergent
Kashi Honey Sunshine cereal
Green Giant steamers (FAC)
Kashi Heart-to-Heart
2 Glade candles (2oz )
1 Glad candle (4 oz) FAC
1 GeoTrax DVD
1 Huggies diaper
Bear Naked granola cereal
Always pad and liner
Nature valley granola bits
Kotex pad and liner
2 Kotex tampons

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hey, where'd my towels go?

I was grousing last week about not being able to find single rolls of Bounty Basic paper towels.

Well, I found them at another store, and picked up a couple, using coupons of course. ;

They seemed a bit small, though. When I got home, I realized why:
The roll in my closet had 68 sheets. The new rolls, 52 sheets.

Harrumph!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bargain bin

I'm doing the happy dance over a ground beef deal! (I know, I must get out more, LOL!)

The local supermarket had a 1-day sale on various meats, including $1.18lb ground beef and 88-cents lb ham. Unfortunately, they were out of ham (but I got a raincheck).

So I got 3 lbs of the beef and decided to use the $1 off any purchase Discover coupon. Also got my 5 cents credit for bringing a reusable bag. My total was $2.48 .. about 83 cents a pound!

And a couple of other deals:
  • Baking alert! Fleichman's yeast is going on sale at some stores. In this week's insert, there's a coupon for 40 cents off any strip or jar. If your store doubles, you can get a strip of yeast for next to nothing. Also, Meijer is giving coupons for 50 cents off your next order with every strip you buy. Kroger did it last year, and may be doing it again.
  • Go to SmartSource and print out the $1 Bumble Bee tuna coupon the other bargain bloggers are talking about. I found them for 99 cents at Meijer .. so free tuna. (I've never tried tuna in a pouch .. hopefully there's more to it than in cans these days.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Helping our furry friends

I recently discovered that the Humane Society in my city runs a pet food pantry .. and unfortunately, it is in dire need of donations of food. Like the pantries set up for us humans, it's seeing a great call for its resources.

Personally, I can't imagine having to give up my furbabies because I didn't have the money to feed them. So when I'm looking for bargains, I'll be looking for items that I can donate, too.

I'm challenging you to do the same: If your local shelter has such a pantry, would you consider donating your pet-food bargains?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Garden report: Running out of time

The garden season is coming to a close, and things are moving along more slowly than I'd like:

I've been harvesting tomatoes, but I still have close to 2 dozen green ones on the vines.

The peppers are getting bigger, but the red ones haven't shown any signs of ripening. I did pick my first yellow pepper over the weekend!


The beans are slowing down. I suspect there will be one more good pick before it's time to let them go.

My fall crop of lettuce is growing nicely. I planted new cilantro, and I'm seeing tiny shoots in the pot!


October means that I must pay close attention to the weather reports .. especially those overnight lows. First frost here is traditionally around Oct. 14. Last year, it was late. This year, the weather's been so odd that I have no idea what will happen.



So I'll watch ..

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Use it up: Dip edition

We always help with cleanup (and setup) at the annual neighborhood party. And we usually end up with lots of leftovers.
This year, among the goodies, I was handed a couple of containers of sour cream-based dip -- ranch and french onion.

So what to do with this stuff besides as a dip for chips or carrot and celery sticks? I've been working on some ideas:

Salad dressing: My favorite. I thin them out with a bit of water (or milk) and add a bit of pepper for seasoning. Makes a nice topping for lettuce.

Chili topper: This was born of self-defense ... said chili was tasty, but way hotter than expected. A blob of ranch dip brought the heat down nicely.

Sandwich spread: I haven't tried this yet, but I'm thinking either could replace mayo on a turkey sandwich or a wrap.

Potato topper: You put sour cream on a baked potato, right? Why not one of the dips?

If anyone else has any ideas, I'd love to hear them. I still have dip left.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Coupon alert

Check your Sunday paper for an interesting coupon: If you buy a 12-pack double roll Northern TP, you get $4 off a 6 or 8-roll package of Brawny paper towels. (This on a page of the paper .. not part of the inserts)

Might be worth waiting to see if there's a sale on one or both products. In my area, the smaller pack of Brawny is running around $7-$8 regular price.

Speaking of paper towels, some joker over at Meijer replaced all the single rolls of Bounty Basic with 2-roll packs -- at a higher price, of course.

I'm also not seeing the "green" Marcal towels. Not that I ever found any of the freebie single rolls, but the $1 off a 2-roll pack paired well with a sale.

Who knows, I may be forced into using rags exclusively. LOL!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's officially fall

Went to the apple orchard last weekend, which signals the arrival of fall at the casa de chaos. (Nope, don't pick the apples ... I'm not up for climbing trees, and there's no difference in price between picked and DIY)

I always look forward to the fresh apples every year ... the taste is so much different from the supermarket versions. (though not always ... bought some apples from a farm market recently that tasted like cardboard.)


In one way, looks like the season is arriving just in time. We used our last package of frozen roasted pumpkin last week, and I'm about to open the last jar of applesauce.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shopping challenge: Weeks 2 and 3

I'm not sure what's happened to the past couple of weeks, but thought I'd update you on my personal shopping challenge.

Week 2: I think I set a personal record here. A stop at Wally World and one at Kroger came to a grand total of $16.12.

Week 3: I certainly made up for the previous week. Total spent at 4 stores: $46.84. But wait! There's more. $2.86 of that comes back on a rebate. Another $11.39 is for an OTC product that will be reimbursed from my flex account. So the final total will be $32.59. That puts me back under my target of $35-$40.

So far this week, the total is running around $24. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Confounding cashiers

I think I scared the cashier at Wally World the other day.

First off, she was a very nice lady .. we were chatting as she checked me out. And she got through my coupons -- including a couple of freebies -- with no problem at all. When she got to the end, though, she stopped and did a double-take at the total.

"Oh, I don't think I did that right," she said, as she went back through the coupons. I took a quick look myself ... a bit worried that she'd missed one. Nope, all there ... about $12 worth.

When she realized she was OK, she looked at me and said, "Wow! You saved a lot of money!"

I felt kind of bad that I scared her, though I certainly don't feel guilty about using coupons. Oh, well, maybe I inspired her.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nobody here but us chickens!

Every once in a while, my attempts to keep the pantry stocked get a bit out of balance.

Mix several $1 coupons for fresh Tyson chicken. Then add some good sales on Tyson chicken breasts -- both split and boneless.

Result: A frugal freezer stuffed with chicken. And lots of time trolling the Web and the cookbooks looking for new and different ways to cook it!

Now I like chicken ... curried chicken, grilled chicken, baked chicken, Asian chicken (in 3 different recipes), chicken in red pepper sauce, ginger chicken, chicken paprikash, chicken and noodles ... well, you get the picture.

I expect to start growing feathers any day now. Perhaps there will be a sale on pork soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Garden report


Things are looking a bit better here garden-wise.


A run of warm weather and a bit of plant food have goosed the bell peppers into producing. My purple pepper plant now has 5 fruits!


The tomatoes are ripening. I have more Romas than slicers, but that's OK. The harvest will still be below last year's. (Shouldn't complain. One of my relatives says their tomatoes were wiped out by a blight.)


The green and wax beans continue to produce like champs! I've filled a couple of gallon bags for the freezer.


I harvested some onions ... I'd thrown an onion gone bad into a deep pot, and the result was 3 small bulbs. Potent, too. I sliced them for cucumber salad and had a good cry!


I've also planted some lettuce in hopes of a fall crop. Never tried that before, so I hope my timing isn't off.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Help! I'm trapped and can't get out!

I have discovered a sure-fire way to prevent myself from going out to spend any $$$: break your garage door.

For the past week, the door's had a little jump, or skip, when it opened or closed. Because of a few other commitments, we couldn't schedule the repairman right away.

Well, we should have paid attention. DH -- fortunately -- had left for work, and I was going to do some grocery shopping. Hit the button, the door starts to lift, then CHAANG! It stops. I disconnect the opener and try to lift the door manually. Nope, it's like an unseen hand is holding it down.

Oops ... at least it was stuck closed.

Update: Turns out the door bearings were shot. Cost to rescue my car: around $190.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to School

After several ... er .. decades after earning a degree, both of us here at the casa de chaos are heading back to school.

I've had this plan in the back of my mind for some time: Get some training, retire early and start what is now fashionably called "The Second Act."

With everything that's happened jobwise in the past year or so, I think I hear my cue ...


We've been debating this for a while. Specifically, how to get the best training without breaking the bank.

One of the universities has a program that would end up costing $6,000. The community college is better -- a specialized certificate would cost about $2,100.

For the moment, we're going a different route. One of the school systems has a career center that offers online classes in the area's we're interested in. They seem to be very basic, skills-oriented classes, too. (Good thing. I took Speech 101. I don't want to do it again.)

Cost: $90 per class.

So, stay tuned for the adventures of "Returning student ...."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A credit card coupon?

Saw something very interesting in today's coupons: A $1 coupon --- good for any kind of purchase -- for users of the Discover credit card. Says it's good at any store that accepts coupons (and I assume, if you pay with your credit card.)

I know that Discover is offering a 5% rebate next month for grocery purchases ... that in combination with the coupon could knock a bit off the grocery bill.

Added: Some of my new forum friends over at A Full Cup tell me that in their areas, it's a $2 coupon. Dang!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Prices going down?

From an Associated Press story:

Food prices are dropping on some key items as retailers slash prices to better compete and food makers do more promotions and pass along savings from lower ingredient and gasoline costs.

Prices for dairy, meat, fruits, vegetables and bread have all fallen.

Safeway Inc. recently announced lower prices on milk, eggs, cheese and other basic items. Whole Foods Market Inc. says low prices on produce, such as organic berries, has meant significant savings for shoppers.

And Costco says prices are down on items from paper towels to prime-cut meat.

Well, personally, I'm not quite ready to wave that banner. I have noticed cheaper dairy and veggie prices. But it's also the season for fresh fruits and vegetables, so prices are bound to go down (and frankly, they're not going down that much for some items. )

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A not-so-soft dilemma

Perhaps it's just as well that I don't accept products for review ....

There's a new product out that takes the place of softener sheets. It's a bar that attaches to your dryer drum, and it's supposed to take care of your clothes-softening needs for a few months. I received a high value coupon, which, combined with a sale, made it pretty cheap.

I was a bit worried that attaching the product on the dryer drum could leave a sticky mess. So I looked it up on the Web to see what folks were saying.

Boy, howdy! Folks had plenty to say!

I saw many complaints that A) the entire holder falls off the dryer drum after the first couple of uses; B) the softener bar falls off (and either breaks into lots of pieces and melts or just melts into a big ball.)

Wow. While I like to make my own decisions about things, I don't really want to risk a big mess in my dryer, either. I think this one goes back to the store.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

August freebies

Not a bad month. Quite a few things arrived in the last few days of the month.

Crisco olive oil
Chef Boyardee ravioli (FAC)
Nineva body wash
8 Snickers bars (FAC)
1 Coffeemate creamer (FAC)
Playtex tampons
Tampax
Charmin wipes
2 Metamucil
Fiber One Cereal
Fiber One bar
Crest toothpaste
Scope
Scope floss pick
2 Kashi cereals
1 Rice Krispies
1 Yoplait whip
1 car wash
Cascade rinse agent

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shopping challenge update

I couldn't quite hold the line. DH wanted to get a birthday card at Kroger (note: must remember to build my card stash again.), so I had him pick up a few sale items.

He spent $4.04 on food, bringing the week's total up to $30.56 -- but still under budget.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My shopping challenge

Since we're dealing with a pay cut, I've been looking at places where I could shave off a bit of $$.
The easiest place: Groceries.
My average spending has been around $50 a week for the two of us. Probably a bit generous, but a lot of that has gone into super-stocking our pantry (to help cut down on eating out.)
Since the pantry is looking good (actually crowded), it's time to cut back. So I decided to limit my weekly spending to $35-$40.

So far this week, I've spent:
Kroger trip 1: $13.07 (took advantage of the mega sale and some good coupons.)
Kroger trip 2: $4.90 (my neighborhood store was out of on-sale chicken breasts)
Meijer: $9.55.

Total: $26.52. whoo hoo!

I'm hoping to hold it here: Right now, I don't need anything that can't be put off till next week. Though what usually happens is that we run out of something vital, LOL!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

'Tis the season for what?

I walked into Costco,
and what did I see,
but a 6-foot, pre-lit Christmas tree!

Right next to the fall harvest wreaths .....

Apparently Costco is not alone. I'm reading that retailers, who are expecting a slim holiday season, are getting a jump on things. So the holiday decorations and gift packs are going out in hopes of snagging customers who might have some $$ now, or who want to spread out the spending.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Deals: Is it Christmas already?

Must be, since CVS is giving stuff away. If you've signed up with them, watch your e-mail for a coupon offering a free gift. Mine is either a bottle of hand soap or a package of nuts. It would be interesting to see if everyone has the same offer.

Other deals:

Yoplait is offering a coupon for a free Yo-Plus yogurt. if you send in a UPC and receipt from Dannon's Activia. Go to http://yoplus.com/RebateForm.pdf

Dannon's also offering coupons if you buy at least $15 in products. You'll need a receipt and possibly the lids or UPCs to prove you bought the stuff. Go to http://www.dannonomics.com/#/promotions

YMMV, but I'll pass. I'm not going to buy $15 in yogurt to get $3 in coupons, especially when there are high-value coupons in this Sunday's paper.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pay cut

While we managed to dodge three rounds of layoffs, we couldn't dodge a pay cut -- 10%

We'll survive. We'll still pay the bills, we won't lose the house, we certainly won't go hungry. But it's time to tighten the budget some more.

What next? Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's a girl!

We have a new addition to the family!

Our niece and her husband welcomed a baby girl (their 3rd daughter) on Monday morning. The little one weighed in at a little over 7 pounds! Mom and baby are doing well.

This little one, like the others, will get a package of goodies from us -- samples of diapers and wipes, and an assortment of coupons for baby items. (Our mail carrier probably wonders about us, LOL)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Travel notes

I'll admit that this poster isn't quite accurate: We only spent part of our vacation at home.


But that's a change for us ... usually, with a 2-week vacation, we'd be traveling the entire time. This year, we took a couple of shorter trips, meaning we were away only 6 out of a possible 16 days. So we saved on hotels, gas, meals and cat-sitting.


I also admit that in the past, we were big shoppers. At our favorite haunt in Michigan, we'd usually buy a case (or 2) of wines, a case of cherry jams, etc. (some for us, some for Christmas gifts.) But not this year. We bought a couple of jars of DH's favorite cherry butter. We didn't quite make a case of wine, either.


Part of that was the need to cut back, but also, inflation had something to do with it. I'm sure the $8-a-jar preserves are wonderful, but there are plenty of less-expensive alternatives that taste just as good. (and in case you're wondering, the cherry butter was not an $8 purchase.) We also passed on buying at about half the wineries we visited, simply because their prices had jumped past our budget. (and while I like a glass of wine, my palate isn't discerning enough that I have to have a $20 bottle.)


Sometimes I wonder if we're depriving ourselves. On the other hand, part of the fun of frugality is the adventure of trying new things. So for now, I think I'll just enjoy the hunt.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

No rinse agent for you

I guess the folks at P&G have decided we're all amply stocked with Cascade dishwasher rinse.

The last few times I've received a Home Made Simple coupon book, it's had a free coupon for that particular product. Not this time. In fact, the closest thing is a free refill if I bought a Swiffer product.

Sign of the times, perhaps?

On the other hand, I'm not complaining. The book has some very nice coupons ... and I'm sure they'll help me score some good deals!

Monday, August 17, 2009

When all else fails ...

One of our outdoor lights stopped working a while back ... and trying the obvious, a new light bulb, didn't fix the problem.

So, being the DIYers that we are, we tried all the obvious stuff: checked the circuit breakers, checked the connections in the fixture, replaced the inside switch, took off the fixture and hooked up an old one that we knew was working.

Nothing.

OK, time to call an electrician. And since we'd talked about installing a dusk-to-dawn light, we decide to buy a new fixture and have the guy install that when he fixed the other problem.

The electrician came, and guess what? He couldn't find a problem. Everything tested out just fine. Bad light bulbs, he suggested. So, he installed the new fixture, which of course, works just fine. (though we'll know for sure tonight.)

Grrr .... Though I suppose there's a silver lining ... if this one stops working, we can call the guy back.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A really big .. gulp!

Took a little road trip recently to catch a baseball game at one of the new ball parks.

We don't do a lot of major-league-level events, but when we do, we have one frugal rule: Don't eat at the stadium, and no booze.

Instead, we do a bit of research on the nearby restaurants and eat before the game. This time, we found a nice place that had a happy-hour menu for both food and drinks, including $2.50 drafts.

It certainly paid off: A bottle of non-premium beer at this stadium -- $7.75. (this is a regular 12-ounce bottle, BTW) By way of comparison, the local supermarket is selling the same brand for $15.99 for 24 cans.

Apparently, I'm the only one bothered by this (what else is new?) because there were plenty of folks around us keeping the beer man busy. Though the tab for the folks in front of us was more than DH and I had paid for dinner and drinks an hour earlier.)

I just keep telling myself ... "It's their money, not mine."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My $1.78 CVS trip

Another milestone - post No. 200!

Anyway, just wanted to brag a bit about my CVS trip earlier this week. Though from the looks of it, you'd think I was getting ready for Halloween!

The goods:
  • 1 Coppertone NutraShield sunblock: $8.99
  • 1 4-pk cartridges for Bic Soleil razor: $6.99
  • 8 Snickers bars (sale 2/$1): $4
  • 2 M&Ms (sale 2/$1): $1
  • 1 CVS brand chocolate-covered peanuts .99 cents
  • 1 CVS brand chocolate peanut clusters . 99 cents.

Total: $22.96 before tax

Coupons

  • $4 off $20 CVS coupon
  • $5 IP on the Coppertone
  • $3 on the Bic cartridges
  • $4 (4 coupons for $1 off 2 candy bars)
  • $1 (coupon for $1 off 2 CVS candies)
  • $5 in ECBs.

Total: 96 cents, plus 91 cents in sales tax.

OOP: $1.78; $5 back in ECBs

I hadn't intended to buy so much candy ... I really wanted toothpaste, but discovered that the coupons I had didn't match the sale items. So, I punted. (and there will be no need for DH or I to hit the vending machines at work for a while, LOL!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back to basics?

A note from the news ...

The Wall Street Journal reports that Procter & Gamble is trying a fewer-featured version of Tide.

The product, Tide Basic, is available in 100 stores throughout the Southern U.S. It lacks some of regular Tide's cleaning capabilities and costs about 20% less than the regular product.

This is being billed as a reaction to folks tightening their purse strings -- turning to less-expensive brands (not to mention the folks who make their own) and using more coupons. (And not just with detergent, apparently; P&G recently reported an 18% drop in fourth-quarter profits. )

Maybe we have a trend here ... new, and not-improved. Perhaps we'll go all the way back to ... plain soap?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Garden report

I can't say I'm thrilled about the garden's progress right now. Perhaps it's the cooler, rainy summer we've had here, but the tomatoes and peppers are about a month behind in development.

My Early Girl has produced 1 tiny ripe tomato so far; not much going on otherwise. That's usually a very reliable producer. My Roma has finally set a fair amount of fruit, which is growing quickly. The other two are still stuck at the tiny fruit stage.


Same with the peppers ... I have one decent-sized one, and a tiny one. The others just have tiny fruits.


The beans have slowed, too, but are still producing ...


If we have a hot late summer-early fall, things may even out. I'll just have to be patient.

Friday, August 7, 2009

July freebies

It started off as a good month, but tailed off a bit.

2 Bic Soeil razors (FAC)
1 Great Value cereal bar
1 Crest ProHealth
1 Tampax
1 Zone bar
1 Vaseline Intensive Care
Old Spice body wash
Hefty 1-zip gallon bags (FAC)
Hefty 1-zip quart bags (FAC)
DiGiorno flatbread melt
2 Reach floss (FAC)
Poise pad
2 McDonald's mochas
Nineva body wash
Bodycology lotion

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What we leave behind

I've always wondered about this ....
In its new issue, Consumer Reports did a bit of research on just how much of a product is left in the bottle when you can't shake any more out.

They bought products in six categories, emptied the container, then waited for a few days for the remaining contents to settle. Then they "pumped, poured, squeezed, shook, and tapped as much as any frugal but rational consumer might. Then we weighed how much was left inside."

And the results:
  • Skin lotion 17-25% of the product left behind.
  • Liquid detergent 7-16%
  • Condiments 3-15%
  • Toothpaste 1-13%
  • Bottled hand soap, 3-6%
  • Glass cleaners, 1 to 3 %

Perhaps the fine folks over at CR wouldn't consider me rational. My motto is: I bought it, I'm using all of it! So I'll swish a little water in the bottle if practical, or take a knife or a pair of scissors to it and scrape out the remainder.

And perhaps I'm a bit cynical, but I do think some packages are designed so they won't empty easily ...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Garage Sale Report

Well, ended up making a little of $30 at the sale. Not a lot, but I did get rid of a couple of big things ... so at least I have more room!

I noticed this time that people were interested in buying clothes (adult clothes, that is). A couple of people bought multiple items; one man bought jeans; a group of three women bought blouses and sweaters. Sign of the times perhaps?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Garage sale fever

I am somewhat reluctantly preparing for the big neighborhood garage sale, plus trying to fit in whatever else needs to be done in the next couple of days.

I say reluctantly because I really dislike all the prep work, and the getting up early part. However, I think I will enjoy the part where I send all the leftovers to the Salvation Army, LOL!

I'll report back ....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Food inflation?

We've been complaining about the "shrinkage" at the grocery store - you know, the gallon of ice cream that's now three quarts or the pound of coffee that's now 12 ounces.
Well, hold on to your seat ... some packages are actually getting larger.
From the Associated Press:

Last year, food packages shrank as food makers, dealing with record high ingredient costs, struggled to maintain their profits. But the weakened economy has caused a slump in demand for ingredients like corn and oil, pushing those prices back down. With lower ingredient costs — and higher consumer demand for more value — some brands are shifting back to bigger packages, without raising prices.
So far, the most evident size boosting is in the chip aisle, where Frito-Lay dominates. The company has boosted some package sizes for brands like Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos and Fritos by 20 percent, reversing cuts made to bag sizes last year.

But don't expect it to last .. experts predict that commodity prices will go up as the economy improves. So that bag of chips will likely get smaller again.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Use it up: What's for dinner?

Since I keep going on about cutting our food waste, thought I'd list a recent week's worth of meals, and how we're trying to cook ahead and incorporate leftovers into our meals:

Saturday
Broiled chicken breasts with cajun seasoning. (We cooked 6 breasts with the idea of using the rest later.) Served with mixed veggies and couscous left from dinner the day before, plus fresh green beans from the garden.


Sunday
Breakfast: Grilled Treet (canned meat) and eggs with fresh melon

Dinner - we went out


Monday
Chicken pot pie, using 3 of the chicken breasts. Cajun chicken breasts make for spicy pot pie! (leftovers were frozen for work lunches)


Tuesday
Chicken pizza (and DH added some Treet .. which I didn't notice.) Sauce was jarred spaghetti sauce, with green peppers from the freezer.) Crust was made in the breadmaker. (extra slices were frozen for work lunches)

Wednesday
Pasta, using the rest of the jarred spaghetti sauce and frozen green pepper not used on pizza.

Thursday
A Treet hash: diced and pan-fried with potatoes and onions. seasoned with garlic, and served in pita bread.

Friday
BBQ ribs with corn and baked potatoes. Baked an extra potato and made up work lunches with leftovers.

Saturday
Soup and sandwich
Sunday
Ham slice with broccoli and baked potatoes.

At the end of Sunday, we had a bit of ham and pasta left over. What's next? Stay tuned!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

A lesson from the past

I have been reading a new book on John and Abigail Adams ... I admit, I've never known much .. or thought much about Abigail. But this book has given me a new appreciation for her, and what she faced.

John Adams was away for years, first in Philadelphia as the Revolution began, later as an envoy to France and to Amsterdam. Framing a new government wasn't exactly a well-paying position, and it didn't help that Adams had given up his law practice to deal with colonial matters.

So it fell on Abigail to not only raise their children, but keep the family afloat financially.

She rented out the family farm and went into business for herself. She speculated in currency (apparently quite popular in that time), and purchased land (in her husband's name, since she couldn't legally own land.)

When Adams went to France, she asked him to send items that she could sell: chocolate, tea, fabric. Her market was the Bostonians who had become wealthy by profiting from the wartime economy. After a while, she began to deal directly with European merchants, bypassing her DH altogether. (Imagine what she could have done with eBay!)

Her intent was not to become wealthy, but to keep the family housed, clothed and fed without going into debt ... something a frugal New Englander abhorred.

I can't help but compare this to something else I read -- a recent news story about how, as the economy stays sour, more women have had to become the breadwinners for their families.

Doesn't seem all that different, does it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Garden report

Well, we've got beans !

I've been picking green and wax beans for the past week ... one batch went straight to the dinner table, the rest are in the freezer.

All of the tomato plants look to be setting fruit. The weather's been so off and on, I'm not sure how well they'll do this year.

So far, I have one green and one purple bell pepper .. not much sign of anything else.

The lettuce is still hanging on, thanks to the rain and cooler weather. The herbs are nice and lush ... must talk DH into making pesto or pasta sauce real soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Coupon alert!

Next time you go shopping, pay close attention to the salad dressing displays: Kraft has a tearpad with a coupon for free produce (up to $1) if you buy 2 of their salad dressings.

In my area, dressings usually run around $1.58, and there are currently coupons in the 6/21 SS for $1/1. Depending on prices in your area, for a little over $1 out of pocket, you could get a couple of bottles of dressing and lettuce (or other type of salad greens).

The coupon is good until 3/31 of next year, so there's plenty of time to find a good deal.

Friday, July 17, 2009

This might get people off the roads

From an Associated Press story:

Researchers are looking for 1,500 drivers in six cities to test an on-board computer system that taxes motorists based on miles driven rather than fuel taxes paid at the pump.
That mileage-based tax is being considered in a $16.5 million study for the U.S. Department of Transportation to determine whether it's a viable option for paying for surface transportation, including roads and railroads, in the future.
"As vehicles become more fuel efficient, the money raised by the gas tax goes down," said said Jon Kuhl, a University of Iowa professor of electrical and computer engineering and principle investigator on the study.
And drivers of the increasingly popular electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles aren't paying their fair share for road use.
Under the system, a small computer is installed in a vehicle and will record miles and road use. It can also tell what state a person is driving in and can charge different tax rates based on the fuel mileage of the car being driven, Kuhl said.

Personally, I have some privacy issues with this. And it certainly would be an incentive for me to keep the car OFF the road as much as possible. (or is that the idea?)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Use it up: Painting

There's been some painting going on at the casa de chaos .... we (OK, I really mean DH) have been tackling the half bath.

Rather than buy paint, we decided to use what was on hand. An off-white (which I bought too much of anyway) made a good base coat. Another half-gallon of white mixed with the same amount of light green made a lighter green, which works well in the small space.


We also have plenty of semi-gloss for the woodwork. (I'd purchased a gallon at the paint store's last sale, with the plan of redoing kitchen woodwork at some point.)


We even had a couple of brushes and rollers handy.


I will have to buy a couple of foam brushes to handle the woodwork. But the total OOP for this project -- should be less than $5.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How's that again?

I got a rebate offer in the mail the other day. Actually, it is a glorified B1G1F offer for a snack product.

But the instructions are rather confusing:
Step 2: Send a copy of cash register receipt dated (xx-xx to xx-xx) with purchase price circled.
Step 4: Mail the original form and the original dated receipt with item descriptions and product price circled.

So, which is it? A copy or the original?

Oh yeah, I have to fill out the form with name, address, etc. The back of the card is the original mailer, which carries my name, address, etc....

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Still standing

I'd said earlier this week that the company I work for planned layoffs this week.

I'm still standing .. though the co-workers that sit on either side of me didn't fare as well. Nor did another 30-plus folks in our division.

I know, a drop in the bucket compared to what's going on in the auto industry. But when it hits close to home, it's scary.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Self-serve blues: Update

I promised I would tell everyone how I came out with the $3 coupon I didn't get.
Went back to the store and talked with the manager. She remembered our conversation and immediately had the customer service clerk give me a $3 cash refund. So, all's well.
And of course I spent it, and a bit more, LOL!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

June freebies

This actually turned out to be a pretty good month.

Head & Shoulders shampoo/conditioner
lettuce (courtesy of a friend's garden)
Cottonelle paper/wipes
3 pkgs Huggies diapers
1 Powerade
1 Hawaiian Tropic butter
Bodycology lotion, soap, body mist
2 Country Crocks (1lb) FAC
Joint Flex
All Bran cereal, fiber bar, drink mix
Kotex pads
Dove shampoo/conditioner
Fancy Feast
Axe shampoo
Playtex tampons
Fisher Price DVD
2 cans infant formula
Degree deodorant
Carefree pad
Jack Daniels BBQ sauce
Hunt's ketchup
Reach floss (FAC)
Kashi cereal bar

Monday, July 6, 2009

Here we go again

This is going to be a difficult week.
The company I work for has announced another round of layoffs. This is the 3rd round in 8 months, not to mention the 2 weeks of furlough I've already taken.

So, I cleaned out my desk, just in case (I've learned to travel light) .. and once again, life (at least the financial portion) goes on hold ...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My sharp CVS deal (and other stuff)

Had mixed success with CVS today. Wanted cereal, but they were all out of Trail Mix Crunch .. hmm, wonder why? No tape to be had, either.
But I did get a sweet deal :
  • 1 Venus Embrace $8.99
  • 2 Bic Soleils. (these still had the $7.99 tag, but scanned at $2.99)
  • 1 Zone bar.

I paid:

  • 2 $3 coupons for the Bic razors
  • 55 cent coupon for the Zone bar (6/14 SS in some markets)
  • $6.98 in ECBs.

Total: $1.08, paid with a gift card I earned doing a survey. So, OOP: Zero! Plus I got $3 ECBs back.

Also, at Kroger this week, Tyson boneless chicken breasts were $1.87 per pound. I used 4 of their recent $1 off coupons to score packages for around $2 each. We usually split the chicken breasts in half before cooking, so I figure I have at least 24 servings of chicken for around $8!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!


May you have a safe and happy holiday. And hopefully, a dry one!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Food waste

One thing I've tried to do this year is cut the amount of food we waste. Not that we pitch tons, but it always seemed that something ended up in the trash each week.
So far, it's been going well ... until the last two weeks. And boy, have I fallen flat.
There were the cooked pork chops that didn't make to the fridge. Found 'em on the counter 9 hours later. (food poisoning, anyone?)
The peaches that skipped ripe and went straight to rot.
The well-refrigerated lunch meat that developed an odd smell the day after it was opened. (it was a last day of sale markdown, but still ...)
And the fresh spinach and strawberries that didn't get eaten quickly enough ... the last bits of those went into the trash, too.
Lessons learned, I suppose. Maybe I should put this poster up in my kitchen, eh?

Monday, June 29, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the salvage store

Took a little road trip last week, and hit some salvage/ bulk food stores along the way. I'd had great success shopping at one before, and I was interested to see if I could repeat the deals.
Well .. a funny thing happened. As I shopped, it hit me: I'm doing better at home combining sales and coupons. A few examples:
  • Salad dressing, 99 cents. Well, no, I'd just paid 58 cents for the same brand.
  • BBQ sauce, 99 cents? Er, 19 cents at home.
  • Pasta, $1? Ah, just got the same brand for 33 cents.

Now, I admit to having an unfair advantage: I live in a city with several supermarkets and double coupons. These salvage stores were in rural areas or smaller cities. (In fact, we stopped at one supermarket to get some ice. They doubled coupons, but only on Tuesdays.) So if I lived in the area, a salvage store might well be the best deal.

And I did find some good deals: Canned tomatoes, 3/$1; bulk rice at 47 cents a pound; jelly for $1; 70 spf sunscreen for $3.55; bath soap, 5/$1; sponges, 12/$1; 1lb of coffee for $1 (Haven't made it yet, so we'll see how good a deal that was, LOL.)

So ... was it worth it? In many ways, yes. I certainly would like to visit the bulk food store again (perhaps when it isn't so crowded ;) On the other hand, it's nice to know that I don't have to travel to a specialty store to get the best deals for my family.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Self-serve blues

Let's call this a tale of aggravation and (hopefully) resolution.

During today's trip at a certain big box store, (and no, it's not THAT one.) I decided to use the self-checkout. Apparently I picked a scanner that hates coupons. I'd scan one ... nothing. Or it would beep, and the screen would switch to "associate approval needed." So I'd wave down the cashier ... which happened at least four times.

Then .. I tried to do a deal that would give me a $3 coupon for my next shopping trip. I finish the transaction .. and the little coupon spitter stays silent.

Enough ... I go to customer service .. and there's no one there. Turns out she was trying to help another customer, and was probably going to be a while.

When I got home, I called corporate, and talked to a very nice CSR who immediately called the store and put me through to the manager. The manager, who was also very nice, apologized for the system problems, and assured me that when I came back, I should look her up and she'd make sure I'd get my coupon.

So, kudos to them for responsive service .. and hopefully all will be resolved soon. But if I even think about using a self-serve terminal again, someone come slap me!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Garden report

It's Mulberry Madness here at the casa de chaos. The total so far from our tree is about 2.5 gallons. This is supposed to be an off year for fruit production ... actually, this means I pick berries every other day.

I've used some of the crop so far: Mulberry muffins, mulberry bread, and some cooked with a fresh peach to create an ice-cream topping.


Otherwise, my Early Girl tomatoes are setting fruit, as are a couple of bell pepper plants. The bean plants are growing tall, but no flowers as yet.


It's been an unusual June so far -- we've had buckets of rain. Good in that I haven't had to water much. Bad in that a garden can get too much rain.


We have, however, been able to collect a good amount of rainwater, which is being stored in containers for when we do hit that dry spell. But I do have to find more containers!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chicks in the city

That clucking sound coming from your neighbor's yard .. it might be a chicken farm.

An Associated Press story reports ..
As the recession drags on, city dwellers and suburbanites alike are transforming their back yards into stamp-sized poultry farms. Victory gardens, proponents say, are not enough. Chickens are the next step.

Growing interest in backyard chickens has fans rallying for change in dozens of cities, although the urban chicken movement leaves some people squawking.

Gee .. and I live in an area that doesn't allow outdoor clotheslines. Though the resident coyotes and foxes would make me think twice.

I certainly applaud anyone who's trying for self-sufficiency. But I also fear that people may get tired of caring for their chickens, or begin to find them inconvenient. Will the next story be: Animal shelters overrun with urban chickens?

Then again, perhaps there's a new career here for someone ... chicken sitter!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More chicken coupons

Check your Sunday paper (inside the paper, not the insert) for another $1 off on fresh Tyson chicken products.

Now, I have to actually find a store that sells them, LOL!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Whose bright idea was this?

Apparently I've missed some sort of revolution in the light bulb world. (besides CFLs, that is.)
A box of incandescent bulbs was on my shopping list. But I discovered that instead of 40 watt, 60 watt and the like, the bulbs were now 34 watt, and 57 watts!
When did this happen? And does a 57-watt bulb put out the same amount of light as a 60-watt bulb? Or am I going to have to use a 67-watt bulb? (which seems to negate the whole idea of energy saving)

Monday, June 8, 2009

May freebies

Kind of a light month:

Caress body wash
4 toothbrushes (FAC)
1 Wrigleys gum
2 KFC grilled chicken
Playtex tampons
Nineva body wash
Dove deodorant
3 Aveeno shampoo/conditioners
1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's BB sauce (FAC)
2 bottles Weber Grill Creation seasoning (FAC)
Dove shampoo/conditioner
Sun Crystals sweetener

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday deals

A couple of things:

  • Go here to print out a money-back guarantee form for Seattle's Best Coffee. (good on purchases through the end of the year, but not at one of their cafes) Their coffee happens to be on sale in my area this week.
  • Go here to request a $1.50 coupon for a new Tide Stain Release wash booster. It's supposed to arrive late next month. (However, I'd be willing to bet that samples will become available about that time, too.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Reclamation project

I've had to delve into shoe repair. I have a pair of inexpensive canvas sandals that were in reasonably good shape, except the right sandal's heel had broken down -- from the inside.

The plastic base had turned to bits. (Apparently I can't kick box in these, LOL


To be honest, I would have just purchased a new pair. But the store doesn't carry them anymore. And I couldn't find a suitable replacement. So...
I pulled up the insole and cleaned out all the plastic bits. Then I cut a couple of pieces of foam and glued them into the heel. When that dried, I glued the insole to the foam. Voila!
In retrospect, I should have used a thicker foam, since it squishes down under weight. But so far, it's holding up.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Use it up: Food edition

What's been going on at the casa de chaos:
  • I've been on a potato kick to use up the 10 pounds I'd purchased on sale. It was either cook 'em or plant em, LOL! I had read that you could peel potatoes and store them in cold water for a short time. It works!

  • We're working on the last of the frozen mulberries. The new crop is ripening, so gotta make room in the freezer.

  • I'm also working on the pantry. I used a slightly-out-of date cake mix to make cupcakes. (they baked very nicely.) Wasn't sure how to top them until I remembered a couple of half-used tubes of decorator frosting. So, I mixed blue with white (and a bit of milk to ease it along). The result: something along the lines of a blue highlighter.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Garden report

  • The beans are sprouting, helped along by a couple of soaking rains and some warm weather. There are a couple of stragglers, so I may need to replant in a couple of spots.

  • The tomatoes are settling in, and two of the peppers have little- bitty fruits.

  • I've harvested lettuce -- more like "micro-greens." It makes a nice addition to the salads. The cilantro is ready to be picked; the basil is coming along slowly.

  • The mulberries are ripening. This is supposed to be an "off" year, when the crop isn't as heavy. There will likely be more than enough for a pie or two.


    We're having some drainage problems around the house, so I can't use my usual method for collecting rain water. This means I shall have to be more vigilant about reusing cooking water, capturing rinse water and the like ...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Need milk? CVS deal

The Central Indiana ad offers 1 ECB if you buy a gallon of Dean's milk at $1.99.
Check your Wednesday paper (inside the paper, not an insert) for a 55 cent/1 or $1/2 coupon.

OOP: .44 cents to 49 cents after coupon and ECB.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Soap on a sheet?

Some corners of the blogosphere have been chatting up a new product lately: a sheet that has laundry detergent, fabric softener and an anti-static. The brand, which I won't mention, touts that you can throw it in the wash, then in the dryer along with your clothes. No fuss, no muss, no measuring needed.

Hmm. One of the supermarkets here had the product on sale: $4.99 for 20 loads. A little math shows that this comes out to about 25 cents per load.

But wait, there's more. Same store had a liquid version of the brand: $4.99 for 51 loads, or a little less than 10 cents per load.

Liquid softener (same brand) was on sale, too: $2.50 for 40 loads, or 6 cents a load.

Another store had name-brand dryer sheets: $3.69 for 70 loads, or a little over 5 cents a sheet.

So ... 25 cents per load for the 1-sheet option, compared to 16 cents if you use liquid softener or 15 cents if you use a dryer sheet. Now, if you used both, it would be 21 cents per load. (Though if you use one, do you really need the other?)

Now certainly, there are variables. If you do few loads, if you can't handle detergent jugs, if your college age kid is laundry challenged ... It also doesn't take into account using coupons ... or the idea of using half as much detergent, cutting the dryer sheet in half, etc.

This also supposes that you use a dryer, too ;)

So I guess the question is this: How much is convenience worth? Up to an extra 10 cents or so a load? For me ... I'll keep the measuring cup handy, thanks anyway.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chicken coupon

Check your Sunday paper for a $1 coupon on any fresh Tyson chicken product. This one is in the paper, not in the coupon inserts.

Should come in handy the next time there's a sale!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My 71-cent CVS deal

I'm still working on my CVS shopping skills .... but here's the report on my Sunday shopping trip.

Transaction #1
Bought:

  • 3 Thermacare heat wraps, $6.99 each. (spend $10, get $5 in ECBs)
  • 2 packages store brand chocolate covered peanuts, 99 cents each.
  • 2 11.3 oz Folgers coffees, $4.89 (B1G1F)
    Total before tax: $27.84.
    Coupons:
  • $3 in Thermacare coupons
  • 50 cents for 2 Folgers coupons
  • $1 store coupon for the peanuts
  • $4 off $20 purchase CVS e-mailed coupon.
    Total: $19.34
    Tax: $1.26
    OOP: $20.06, $5 in ECB
    Because the Thermacare is a reimbursed expense under my medical flex plan, OOP is actually zero.

    Transaction #2
    Bought:
  • 1 Colgate Total, $2.99 (get $2 in ECB)
  • 1 40-ct Band-Aid, $2.99 (get $2 in ECB)
  • 1 Colgate regular, 88 cents
  • 1 Snickers bar, 67 cents.
    Total before tax: $7.53.
    Coupons:
  • $1 off Colgate Total
  • $1 off Band-Aids
  • $5 in ECBs
    Total: 53 cents
    Tax: 18 cents
    OOP: 71 cents, $4 in ECBs for another trip.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dollar deals for all

Seems everyone is jumping on the dollar bandwagon these days. A USA Today story recently noted:

As cash-strapped consumers face escalating food prices, Wal-Mart, Kraft, Unilever and Campbell's are using the magical $1 price to tap into the trend of people eating and cooking more at home.

Among the marketing:

Wal-Mart: TV ads promote more than a dozen items as a "nutritious breakfast" for about $1 a person as an alternative to fast food.
•Campbell's: The soupmaker is testing a $1 price for some condensed soups at select outlets instead of the usual $1.59.

Now to be honest, the frugalista in me has to wonder: How many meals can be fixed that cost less than $1 per person or serving? (And I wonder if we'll ever see a soup coupon again if they do drop prices? IMHO, it seems that coupons for any brand have been few and far between since it became a "budget meal.")

The full story can be found at:
www.usatoday.com/money/advertising/2009-05-19-food-marketers-dollar-meals_N.htm

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Memorial Day


Wishing everyone a safe and fun holiday. And please take a moment to remember those who have defended our country.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The future of the credit card?

The financial blogging world was all atwitter (well, that, too, I suspect) about this article in the New York Times:

Credit cards have long been a very good deal for people who pay their bills on time and in full. Even as card companies imposed punitive fees and penalties on those late with their payments, the best customers racked up cash-back rewards, frequent-flier miles and other perks in recent years.

Now Congress is moving to limit the penalties on riskier borrowers, who have become a prime source of billions of dollars in fee revenue for the industry. And to make up for lost income, the card companies are going after those people with sterling credit.

Banks are expected to look at reviving annual fees, curtailing cash-back and other rewards programs and charging interest immediately on a purchase instead of allowing a grace period of weeks, according to bank officials and trade groups.


Of course, another story in the Times also suggested that this is sabre-rattling, or that companies may impose conditions such as waiving fees, etc, if you spend X amount of money per year.

As for me, I've been one of those "freeloaders" who pays the bill every month, and I have no plans to change that. Actually, I take that back. Since everything I purchase generates merchant fees, I think I contribute plenty to the credit card company's profits.

But ... if I'm going to be charged an annual fee, or immediate interest on purchases ... then I'll be bringing my checkbook out of retirement.

We shall see. But in the meantime, I'm going to look very carefully at any credit-card related mail that arrives at my house.

The full story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/business/19credit.html?_r=1

Monday, May 18, 2009

And here we go!


Hey, I finally have a garden!


Things have dried out a bit, so I finally had a chance to put in my peppers and tomatoes and plant my bean seeds.


Also (and finally) picked up the flowers I wanted for the front yard, and am in the process of planting those.


My lettuce and greens are going well -- I should be able to start tossing microgreens in my salads very soon now.


So, stay tuned for garden updates!

Free soda

This appears to be running mostly in the Midwest .. but check your CVS ad for a $5 rebate on 4 of the 1-liter bottles of Pepsi products.

And it just so happens that CVS is running a sale this week on 1-liter bottles 4 for $5.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Luck of the Irish?

No garden report right now .. it's been raining buckets, so I'm letting things dry out a bit.

So instead, I'll do some bargain bragging...

I think I scored the mother of all meat deals at Aldi. Was passing by the meat case when a big sign caught my eye: Red label only, $5 off ticket price.

The red label was point cut corned beef! (normally $1.99 a pound, a day off last date of sale.) I started looking at cuts: $8, $7.50 ... ah.. $6.27, then $4.44. So I took the less-expensive two. The manager happened to be manning the checkout, and I asked, "If the price is $5 off, how much for this one at $4.44?"

"50 cents," he said. Sold.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The 'Haunted' House

No, we don't have ghosts or beasties in the house. Instead, we should call this story, "The Thing That Came Out of the Ground."

Something I never realized before I had a house built: Construction guys like to bury their messes. Extra concrete? Pea gravel? Nails? Ah, just bury it all. They'll never know.

And we don't ... until things start popping out of the ground.

Early on, I watched the birds wrestle with something in the yard and thought perhaps we had darn strong worms. Nope, the bird was trying to grab a cable tie. (I hope it was for nest building, not for dinner.)

A couple of years later we were mystified as to why nothing would grow in a certain spot. DH took a shovel and started digging ... until he heard a "clunk." A bit more excavation uncovered a 3 foot wide slab of leftover concrete -- took the poor man more than a week to break it up.

The first few years of digging the garden usually brought up a can of nails and a bucket or two of gravel and rocks. The rocks were "donated" to a Little League's parking lot. (The nails were donated to the trash can.)

The nails, I think, are finally gone, though we had an encore the year of the new roof. But every year I still have to "harvest" my gravel crop before we till the garden. (They don't reproduce, do they?)

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Best-Laid plans

Well, we didn't get to the vegetable garden on Sunday. Instead, we refurbished the front garden ...

It was supposed to be a straightforward project. (Yeah, I'm laughing, too.) A couple of trips to get the new edging, some topsoil and mulch.
Well, two trips turned into five trips, turning it into an all-afternoon project.
(It started when the local home improvement store said: Oh, we have the edging, but not in the color you want.
The store in the neighboring county has it.)
And, as usually happens in home improvement projects, we found some not-so-lovely surprises: Like, there's a severe erosion problem next to the porch. A bit of poking, and I realized why: The grr ... installers ... grr who put in the gutters two years ago pointed the downspout toward the house. Since it is all under the bushes, we never noticed.

I also realized that at least one of the plantings (original with the house) is half dead, and should come out. Can't say I really mind ... we expanded the garden a bit with the new edging, so it would be nice to have some new plantings in there.

Cost-wise, not too bad. Less than $25 in materials. Nursery bill to be included later.

And oh, yeah, the veggie garden: It got tilled this afternoon.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gardening day

Weather permitting, there will be some heavy-duty gardening at the casa de chaos today.

At least the garden will be tilled .. how many plants will actually get into the ground depends on my back ;)

The buzz that garden centers are doing a big business this year must be true in my area: I had to visit three stores to get the tomato and pepper plants I wanted.

At the first store, the inexpensive plants were picked over. In fact, the shelves in that area were almost bare. I overheard one of the clerks say that their supplies had been going fast.

I also suspect stores have cut back on inventory. One store that usually puts up two greenhouse tents just had one. And I definitely saw fewer varieties of herbs (and not a yellow tomato plant in sight)

(I also didn't see a clearance section, though that might come later when it starts getting warmer.)

Anyway, it's time to till -- break out the ibuprofen!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

April freebies

It turned into a pretty good month for free stuff...

All-Bran drink mix
Always pad
shampoo/conditioner
TP, wipes
Old Spice body wash
Gain
Eucerin lotion
Jergens natural glow
Wisconsin wine guide
Scenic byways guide
Lettuce seed
tomato seeds
Kotex
Quaker quakes (FAC)
Kashi frozen entree
DelMonte peaches
Johnson's Buddies soap (FAC)
Wrigleys gum
razor
Poise pad
Zyrtec
Gillette shampoo

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A broth update

Thought I should mention that I finally got around to making a pot of vegetable broth.

It went well, I think. And it was nice to get the bag 'o veggie bits out of the freezer. (though I've since started another one.)

This seems to be a bit stronger smelling than the commercial variety. Considering that I threw in things like asparagus bits and cabbage leaves along with the celery, carrots and onions, I'm not surprised.

Also strained it through a cheesecloth in case there was some ... er ... dirt left on the peelings.

Tasted OK, though my younger cat, who loves all kinds of soups and broths, wasn't impressed.

Yield: 8.5 cups ... the equivalent of about 4 cans of store-bought broth.

Now to find a use for it ...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Online news may not always be free

SAN FRANCISCO - Three media veterans plan to bundle the Internet content of newspaper and magazine publishers into a subscription package that will test Web surfers' willingness to pay for material that has been given away for years

http://tech.yahoo.com/news/ap/20090415/ap_on_hi_te/online_news_fees_3


I've suspected that the Internet as we know it will be drastically changed in the next decade as more companies take control of their information. It's already happening to some degree on sports sites. Throw in a recession that's hammering the news and publishing industries, and the stage may be set for more "subscription" services.