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.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Deal: Cheap/Free Dawn detergent

For those of you with Krogers. ..

Dawn dish detergent (14-24 oz and the 10.1 oz pump) are on sale this week for $1.99. (I'm using a Central Indiana ad).

If you have the new Home Made Simple coupon book, you can use the 50 cents off any bottle (doubles to $1) and/or the $1.50 off the foam pump. (I didn't see the Simple Pleasures at my store, but if it's on sale at yours, consider the $1 coupon.)

Sign up for the e-saver coupons and get an extra 50 cents off.

I got a regular bottle and a pump bottle and spent 98 cents for both (before tax).

Another scenario: Combine the e-saver coupon and the $1.50 coupon from HMS to get the bottle for free plus 1-cent overage.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The value of DIY

If I'd ever doubted that doing it yourself can save money ...

I'd mentioned that one of the cars needs some major repairs, along with some maintenance. One thing suggested was that we replace the cabin air filter. Cost - $76!

Now these filters can be expensive .. the local auto parts stores usually charge around $35. (though they can be had elsewhere for less). But even if we'd paid $35, for a half-hour of work, we'd still be $41 ahead!

We used to send the lawnmower out for service each year. But the price kept climbing (and one place skimped on the oil). So DH learned how to service it himself. Oil and a spark plug cost about $6 total. He'd spent less than $10 on a sharpening tool that attaches to the drill.

So, less than $10 and an hour or so of time has saved us $40 to $50 a year.
And given that the poor lawnmower fell apart on the second mowing this year, I think I'd be even more annoyed if we'd paid $50-$60 bucks for servicing!