Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween greetings!

For those who celebrate, have a safe and frugal holiday!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The higher cost of entertainment

Add something else to the list of prices going up ...:

Got this email from the folks at Redbox: Starting on Monday, October 31, the daily rental charge for DVDs will change to $1.20 a day.* The price change is due to rising operating expenses, including new increases in debit card fees.

I was a bit confused by this reference to debit card fees ... but apparently the law that capped the swipe fee that banks are allowed to charge also raised the fees that can be charged for small transactions.

I suppose in the overall scheme of things, an extra 20 cents isn't bad ... unless you rent a whole stack of DVDs at once. On the other hand, it begins to make the competition a wee bit more attractive.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inadvertant negotiations

Sometimes, you get a surprise ....

I called our usual HVAC company to schedule the fall tune-up for our furnace (thought it would be nice to do this before we start getting snow).

Had a coupon for a $40 furnace "inspection." Is this the same as the tune-up, I asked.
Well, no. The company was charging $40 for someone to just look at the thing ...

Er .. so how much is a tune-up? $90, was the answer.

Since I had a competitor's coupon that offered an actual tune-up for $55, I decided to pass. When I told her no thanks, she suggested their service plan, which would bring the cost down to $80.

No thanks, I said again.

At that point, she mentioned that they had an online special ... a furnace tune-up for $45.

That was an offer I couldn't refuse. So I scheduled a call. We'll see how it works out ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Free pasta - sort of

Today is World Pasta Day!

To celebrate, some Italian restaurants are a pasta deal:

Fazoli's -- If you get their e-mails, print out the coupon to get a free spaghetti with sauce if you purchase a drink. (Note, this actually is good on Wednesday 10/26)

Buca de Beppo -- If you buy a small or large pasta or entree, you'll get a free serving of spaghetti and sauce, plus a 1 pound package of dry spaghetti to take home. (I suggest calling ahead on this one.)

Spaghetti Warehouse -- Like them on Facebook and get a BOGO coupon for a spaghetti entre.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Today's tip: online buying

Since the buying season is almost at hand ...

If you're purchasing any large items ... like power tools or electronics ... consider buying online at the store's site and arranging for pickup at the brick-and-mortar store (provided the store offers that service, of course).

I tried this on Black Friday last year. Got in and out of the store in no time flat, and no worries that the item would be sold out. It also avoids those nasty shipping charges ;)

And sometimes, you get a nice surprise. The last time we bought something, the item's online sale price was $10 cheaper than the sale price in the store!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thrift store musings

We've been hunting for some household items for the casa de chaos. Since the retail price of these items is more than we prefer to pay, we've decided to buy them used.

Now buying used is certainly an exercise in patience. Just because you want something, it doesn't mean that it will automatically become available at the thrift store, KWIM?

And since we're stopping in the stores on a regular basis, we've had to learn something else ... restraint! Thrift stores have all these cool things ... a nice shirt here, a holiday decoration there ... we could easily blow our budget and more ...

In the meantime, I have a new thrift-store mission, courtesy of a friend. She's teaching at a kindergarten in an area with some significant poverty.

She's asked us to be on the lookout for children's clothes. Little kids (as all parents know) can have some messy accidents. So the school keeps a supply of clothes on hand for such emergencies. Unfortunately, the clothing seldom comes back ... and the supply is dwindling.

So this I can do ... hey, I'm going to be hanging around the thrift store anyway ..

Garden report: We're out of time

All good things must come to an end, it seems. The weather report says that we'll get a hard freeze this week, so it's time to shut down the garden.

Bit by bit, I'm bringing things in: the peppers, the green tomatoes, the beans.
I've cut herbs for drying. Fortunately, most of them are in pots, so I can bring them in until we get another mild spell (and of course, we will ;)

I've got geraniums to pot up for overwintering, and my rosebush needs to be cut back and mulched. Now I've got to find room for all these pots!

Sigh. It's sad, especially when I see that the beans and the pepper plants are still flowering. But it looks like we're out of time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Menu Monday: Pumpkin drops

Here's a recipe for one of my favorite cookies:

1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (cooked, pureed carrots are a great substitute)
1/2 cup shortening (or oil)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins (or chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugar, pumpkin and shortening. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix in raisins (then nuts, if using).
Drop by teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Makes about 4 dozen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Good until ...

One of the supermarkets in my city is advertising "Good 'till New Year's" pricing.

Nice, but what happens after New Year's? Back to original prices, or even-higher prices?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Good news and bad news

The good news ...

From USA Today:

Consumers may catch a break on the price of gasoline and baked goods and sweets as the Thanksgiving-Christmas season approaches, thanks to a sudden tumble in worldwide commodity markets.

Flour prices have risen more than 50% this year, according to Jeremy Reichart, vice president of Orchestrate Management, which operates several restaurants and a food market in Des Moines. But they should fall in coming months, as the price of wheat has tumbled 25% since last summer, according to the Chicago Board of Trade.

Good news for baking season, but, I'm not too sure about the gasoline prices, given that in my neighborhood, they just jumped 35 cents a gallon.

The bad news ...

From the Los Angeles Times:

Warehouse club Costco Wholesale Corp. will raise annual membership fees 10% amid rising costs.
The company will raise annual membership fees by $5 for U.S. individual, business and business add-on customers as well as for Canada business members. Those members will now pay an annual fee of $55.
U.S. and Canadian executive members, meanwhile, will see their annual membership fees increase to $110 from $100.

Not a big increase, but still ... ouch.

The full stories:,0,3022819.story

Friday, October 7, 2011

Well, duh!

The electric bill seemed a bit high this month, so we went on a 'vampire' hunt -- looking for things that draw power even when they're not used. (That is, besides the lights ....)

For starters, we realized that our now-busticated TV was still plugged in, happily drawing power for its "instant-on" feature. Ditto for the converter box.
I discovered that the breadmaker was still plugged in, also drawing power for its timer.

I also pulled out the Felaway diffuser, which is supposed to help calm skittish cats down. It had gone dry ... and unfortunately wasn't much help anyway.

We also yanked the plug on a couple of other appliances we weren't using, though I'm not sure if they were drawing any power.

Hopefully, pulling a few of these vampires took a small bite out of the bill ....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

September freebies

Not a bad month ... got some unusual things.

1 cappuccino
Honey Nut Cheerios
Dannon Greek yogurt
Dove candy bar
1 beer
1 latte
Nieva body wash
Crave cat treats
BK chicken nuggets
Hardee's coffee
Stadium Jerky
2 Amazon mp3s

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday menu: Savory Pumpkin Bread

Here's a bread machine recipe for a wonderful savory pumpkin bread. This is good for sandwiches and makes great toast (especially with a bit of butter).

Directions for 1.5 lb loaf

6-8 ounces of water
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons dry milk
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Measure all ingredients into bread pan, in order. Place machine on basic setting and whatever type of crust you like. (I do medium)

I use fresh pumpkin with this, and I've found that either boiled or roasted pumpkin works well. Just make sure it's smashed into the consistency of canned pumpkin. (lumps aren't good)
For a fat-free version, substitute applesauce for the oil.

(and if someone wants the measurements for a 2lb loaf, message me and I'll send them along).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Garden report: Going slowly

We're still harvesting here at the casa de chaos. It's like the garden is trying to get a second wind ... some of the bush beans are producing again, and the pole beans are finally providing a handful at a time.

Still have plenty of peppers and tomatoes ... and my eggplant has snapped to it --- it's producing three more fruits.

Only problem is ... I'm running out of time. We may see a light frost tonight, and heavy frost could hit within two weeks.

I've been pulling tomatoes as they start to ripen ... they can finish the job inside where it's warmer. Otherwise, all I can do now is keep an eye on the weather reports ...