29 April 2009

WFMW: The Back Up Box

I like free things. I especially like free things that come in the mail. Occasionally, I get wicket insomnia and sit in my computer into the wee hours strolling through the interwebs looking for freebies I can sign up for instead of staring at my ceiling not falling asleep anyway. I only go for the completely free deals ... no "sign up for 2 offers" or whatever nonsense going on here. Sometimes its a foil packet of a new shampoo or conditioner. Other times its a fancy schmancy granola bar I'd never pay full price for. Some weeks the mailman doesn't bring us any free goodies. Other weeks you'd think it was my birthday everday when I go out to get the mail.

Now, my love of free things does not override my love of organized, neat, tidy looking spaces. The stack of freebies almost immediately (and we're talking years ago now ...) outgrew the mail spot, the shelf in the bathroom, the kitchen counter, etc. We were living in a much smaller house at the time, and although I loved getting free goodness in the mail, I did not love having to move it, find it, organize it, search for it, or any other time consuming, sweat inducing, irritation creating endeavor. Alas, the Back Up Box was born.

It started as an empty case of Pepsi with the top pieces of cardboard torn off. It's what happened to be on the floor in my kitchen the day I nearly had a stroke about my freebie abundance and its plan to overtake my house with its foil packets and sticky glue dots. I simply tossed everything in the box, labeled it "Back Up" and started referring people to it (my family, not so many strangers wander in and ask if we have an extra dryer sheet ...) when they needed something we were out of. The Back Up Box predates the coupon stockpile in this house, so when we were out of shampoo on only the 3rd of 5 showers, we were simply out. There was no trip to the basement to find a new bottle on a well appointed shelf like here is now.

The Back Up Box to the rescue!

You could easily root around in the samples for a minute, find a tiny bottle or packet of shampoo, and be back on schedule. This happened when we ran out of bath products, snacks, and sippy cups (thank you, Juicy Juice and your free sippy cup sending). We once happened to have a formula sample (how, I have no idea ... I stay up late ... who knows how these things happen ...) when one of our friends came by with his kiddo and not enough powdered gold (yuck, fyi) for the kid and its enormous appetite. When Be had to hit the laundromat because our washer tried to die, we didn't have to worry about hauling our 1876 lb industrial laundry detergent along (ok, not really, but it is reaaaaaallly heeeeaavvvvy). I dug into the Back Up Box and out came a handful of detergent samples ... easy, breezy, lemon squeezy.

I love my Back Up Box, and time and time again, it works for me.



28 April 2009

GDA: Restaurants.com


They need to stop emailing me with all their discount code goodness. Ok, not really. $25 certificates are 80% (!!) off through Thursday, April 30th. Use code LUCKY at checkout and get each one for $2. Hooray!



Springtime Giveaway Carnival!

I like springtime. I like carnivals (ooooh, elephant ears ... drool, please), and most importantly, I loooooove presents. I'm so stoked to be able to join in the Springtime Giveaway Carnival at HeavenlyHomemakers that I have not 1, but 2 giveaways for you this week. Wahoo!

-----(( Round 1 ))-----

The first giveaway is partially pictured above. It's a Meijer bag currently filled with all kinds of sample sized goodies from travel bottles of Sunsilk (as pictured) to little foil packets of this and that to a tin of Flex mints, a full sized Schick razor, and even a diaper from Huggies. It's a hodge podge of things from my Back Up Box (which you can read about here), and it's for you (Awwwww ...).

-----(( Round 2 ))-----

The second giveaway is this collection of Starbucks chocolates. There are Cafe Mocha truffles, Vanila Bean Truffles, Caramel Macchiato Truffles, and Milk Chocolate Espresso Beans. Coffee + Chocolate?! Is there possibly anything better? Ever? Ah yes, freeeeeeeeee coffee chocolates.

-----(( To Enter ))-----

1. Leave a comment on this post. I looooooooooove comments. They make me smile.

2. Check back (or you could subscribe ... ) on Friday, May 1 after 12 Noon for winners.

3. Respond within 48 hours with your contact info to jesuisem AT gmail DOT com.

4. Wait not so patiently for your chocolates to arrive and eat (most of?) them on the way in from the mailbox.

5. While you're waiting, head over to the rest of the Carnival and check out the other sweet giveaways in progress. Enter away!



Gratituesday: Instant Gratitude

For more Gratituesday, check out Laura's blog!

I'm grateful (for) ...

... 3 days' worth of rain have greened up the grass and given life to a gorgeous patch of yellow tulips. I love spring.
... a call from the other side of the world, to say hello.
... Shane Clairborne and the Irresistible Revolution.
... a beautiful friend, full of love, who was keen eyed and kind enough to gift me a copy of the above.
... the crunchy edges of apple fritters.
... everyday acts of rebellion.
... a week off school, and the time that allows for me to catch up my office, the house, and my reading list.
... Azure blue skies, white puffy clouds.
... a great Saturday in a warm and exceptionally cozy space crammed full of good friends, great music, and an energy not easily replaced by other experiences.
... that all the hard days are gone ...

Most simply,


27 April 2009

Menu Plan Monday: 1/2 Way There!

For 200+ more menus, check out the Org. Junkie.

We did alright with last week's menu. There was a little switching around, and I never actually took the chicken out of the freezer, but we still managed to eat out of the pantry most of the week ... success!!

M: Beef and Pepper Fajitas (because stir-fry, the original plan, got outvoted)
T: Spaghetti with Meatballs, green salads, garlic bread
W: French toast, eggs, sausage patties (we have a plethora of bread this week, so french toast is more practical than pancakes in order to use it up)
R: Broccoli Cheese Soup with Grilled Bacon and Cheese Sandwiches
F: Corn Tacos
S: Whole Crockpot Garlic Chicken (ooooh, I could take it out of the freezer today and maybe it will thaw in time.)
U: Chicken Pot Pie Biscuit Bake

The Updated Month of Menus is then as follows ...

Crockpot Pork Roast x2
Seared Beef Roast x2
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Spaghetti with Meatball Marinara
Corn Tacos x2
Em Hash (recipe ... ) x2
Homemade Pizza x2
Crockpot Whole Garlic Chicken
Chicken Pot Pie Casserole with Biscuits (from leftover whole chicken)
Ham and Potato Casserole
Grilled and Glazed Ham Steaks x2
Venison Helper (I still have the venison, we used beef instead, which may mean I run out of ground beef for the other menu items early ...)
Soup and Grilled Bacon & Cheese Sandwiches x2
Baked Pork Chops
Grilled Marinaded Pork Chops
Grilled Cod/Tilapia
Chicken Mongo (so much fun ... hopefully with pictures when we get to it)
Sausage and Spinach Lasagne
Sauce Your Own Meatballs and Potatoes (you pick: sweet & sour, bbq, swedish, marinara ... I keep the sauces frozen in bags and knock a chunk off to warm up based on what everyone wants)
Breakfast for Dinner: Pancakes, Eggs, Sausage
ItaliSoy Grilled Chicken Breasts (the easiest marinade in. the. world.)
Popcorn Chicken and Fries (from a recipe at the Heavenly Homemaker)
Fried Chicken Salads

What in the world are you eating this week?



24 April 2009

GDA: Restaurants.com 60% Off + Promo!

Is this a rerun? Haha.

No! Though I swear they should start paying me (they surely don't) for my adoration of them and the PR that comes from it. Ahaha, I wish.

Anyway, if you missed out on the 70% off promo from my Frugal Friday post last week, you still have another chance. I just (think 2 minutes ago ... ) got an email from Restaurants.com with a new promo offer and I had to run over here and tell you about it. All $25 certificates are 60% off through Sunday the 26th, making them $4 each! And, if you hustle over there and get in on the deal, they'll throw in a $15 Dale and Thomas Popcorn promo card with every order. Couple it with a click through from Mr. Rebates and you'll get 80c back in cash on every certificate you order.

It would look something like ...

$4 ... $25 certificate
$4 ... $25 certificate (because you're feeling feisty and wanted 2)
-$1.60 cash back from Mr. Rebates
$6.40 for $50 in restaurant certificates AND a $15 popcorn company promo card.

What's not to love? Head over if you're interested and use the promo code BONUS at checkout.



PS! I just found out the 70% promo may also still be running. I don't know the math or logistics on how of if anything would work together, but you can for sure choose whichever is the better deal for you. Enjoy!

Seven Quick Takes Friday: Vol 2

Has it really been a week already? Wow!

I took THREE final exams on Thursday. THREE! That should not be allowed under international human rights laws. The good news: they're done. The bad news: I have no idea how I did. In celebration of the end of the semester, a lovely taste of summer by the good people at Bell's Brewery and a hilarious picture. I call it "The Triumph of Good over Evil".

I've had the same bank deposit sitting on my desk, ready to be dropped off, since the 16th. Yiiiikes. I should probably do that now that my brain is not limited to reading theory, thinking about theory, and trying to write 17 pages worth of nonsense about theory. It's only an $18.76 deposit, but it's something!

Speaking of money, I have an entire basement full of empty pop cans to return for the 10c (each! seriously! move to Michigan!) deposit. We're taking bets on how much cash that will turn into. The lowest one is $90! Huzzah that's a lot of empty cans! Now, to stop dreading the 48 trips to the return machines from the parking lot ...

I'm going to Kmart today. They're having Super Doubles. I think I may be more excited about that than about finishing my exams. This may make me an official frugal crazy person. Or, it may make me skip to my car with a cart full of free goodness. Only time will tell ...

My office is a disaster again. I think this happens everytime I have a ton of homework. Things just get ... left places. The collection of empty Diet Coke cans tells me there was late night paper writing going on in here recently, and the 2 inch stack of uncut coupon inserts makes me cringe. I do not like "Disaster Office" at all. Perhaps I will do something about that. Or, perhaps I will ignore it until after the weekend since I don't have to be in class on Monday!! (Can you tell I'm stoked about that? I mean, really, how many quick takes in one post need to be about school?)

I kind of want to cut my hair off again. Be thinks I should. I wanted to grow it out until I could pigtail braid it (think Pochahontas, not preschool), but it's getting heavy to have up constantly and there isn't much else I can do with it. My heart hurts a little at the thought of starting over, but really I just look like an uptight English School Teacher right now with my flipped up quasi-bun. Perhaps something short and cute? Spikey? Springy? Why does warm weather always make me want to cut my hair off?

I really wanted to eat cookies for breakfast. Since no one else was up to catch me doing it, the temptation was intense. I overcame, however, and will now promptly have cookies for lunch! Yahoo!

For more Quick Takes Fridays, check out Jen's blog.


23 April 2009

Giveaway Winner: Take 2

I'm terribly sad that the first winner of our giveaway didn't email me.

A word to the wise, bloggy giveaway entrants: always put the blog whose giveaway you enter into your Reader or subscribe by email so you don't miss out on your name being announced.

And so, I went back to the random number generator and plugged in the info for round two. This new winner will also have 48 hours to contact me to claim the prize, so by 1130pm on Saturday, April 25th. The new winner is (another drum roll, perhaps?) ...


Yes, that's right, an entrant without a name. She's like the blogger formerly known as (insert name here). So! Congrats to her and thanks again to everyone who entered!



22 April 2009

GDA: Kmart Super Doubles!

As I've mentioned before, Kmart and I are not really friends. We have a long history of them annoying me, and in turn I avoid their stores like the plague. I have my weaknesses, though, and Super Doubles are definitely included.

Kmart stores are offering Super Doubles this week (until 4/25), meaning coupons up to and including $2 are doubled at checkout. $1/1 turns into $2/1, $2/1 turns into $4/1 and that spells freebies all around. You can check their website for the ad local to your area to see if they're participating this time around. Apparently the entire chain can't do this at once for some reason, so make sure you look for the red Super Doubles detail box on the front page of the ad after you find it. Limits are 25 coupons per customer per day and only 4 of the same one. There are other details and fine print you can (should? eh) read on the ad.

You can also head over to HotCouponWorld's Kmart forum and read through their pricebook to see what you may be able to score for free this week based on what coupons you have. I'm not that planner-y (yea, I make up words as I go ... it's fun) about shopping doubles. I just kind of go wander the aisles with my coupon binder and try to find the best deals. I'm hoping to carve out some time tomorrow for that endeavor since Be doesn't have physical therapy and I don't have another final (until Thursday ... for which I have to write a paper ... ah well ... it's Super Doubles!!). I will let you know if I score any amazing deals.

My suggestion: pay close attention to the food and health/beauty aisles. Food is often priced just about right for a $1/1 double to make things cheap and a $2/1 double to make them free. HBA is often in that threshold as well. Beware the Kmart prices, though, the ones around here are dramatically higher than other retail stores. How this can possibly be, as they're not spending any of that money on upkeep or staff training, I have no idea.

If you find something rad, leave us a comment so we can offer congrats and run over to the local store and get in on the deal. If you're shopping in my area, try to leave me something good, ok? I'm behind the ball this week. Most of all, good luck and good deal finding!



21 April 2009

Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays: Em Hash

Blessed with Grace

Quick dinners that fill up bellies for relatively few pennies are my friends. When I get home from trekking across campus all day I'm often far from in the mood for complicated meal prep or long cooking times. This dish has neither. It isn't the absolute healthiest thing we've ever eaten, but paired with a cooked veggie and a green salad it isn't all that bad.

You will need ...
sausage ... crumbled or smoked links (or any other protein of your choice)
cubed hashbrowns ... either real potatoes or a bag of frozen
shredded cheese

You will not measure any of these things. I am not a measuring kind of girl. I throw in what looks like enough based on my family's appetites and histories with a certain meal, especially this one. Sometimes I'm way off and someone starves or there are 30 days worth of leftovers (not really that exciting after 2 or 3), but most often it works out alright. I suggest experimenting with what looks appropriate for your family. The more wacky things you add to it, the farther it goes.

Now, to get started I cut up the smoked sausage in little disks. When I use uncased sausage, I just crumble it into the pan. These chopped nicely into little rounds, because well ... they were frozen solid when I started dinner.

No need to defrost, just cut them up anyway. They cook just fine from frozen, and better yet, there's no time spent on defrosting. If you're smarter than I, take them out earlier in the day. I just toss them all into the pan regardless.

The added benefit of tossing them in frozen is the pretty steam show. Also, the pan you see is my very favorite one in the whole world: a cast aluminum caldera. It's the.coolest.pan.ever. Once the sausage has a chance to brown a little, make a little divet by pushing all the sausage pieces to the outside of the pan around the edges and toss in the potatoes.

As you can see, also frozen. I would advocate breaking them up in the bag before tossing them in because they're easier to work with. I, because I was taking pictures for this post instead of paying attention to what I was doing, forgot that step. Usually I beat them on the counter a few times and call it good once they're broken into manageable chunks. Then throw in about a 1/2 cup of water, slap on the lid and let it hang out for a little while (5-6 minutes, stir, then another 5 or so until the hasbrowns are cooked through).

While you're waiting ... clean the counter, sort the mail, oh, and make some eggs. I just break them into the pan and 'scramble' them from there. No need for more bowls or utensils or the like.

Once the hashbrown time is up, take the lid off and give it a good stir. It will not be pretty. The water will have deglazed the sausage goodness off the bottom of the pan and the water will likely look like something out of a dirty bird bath. Do not be alarmed. It will also look a bit like soup. Rest assured it will get better.

See, I warned you ... soupy. Leave the lid off and turn the heat up a bit to give the potatoes some coaxing to soak up all that flavor-fest goodness. The extra heat also cooks off whatever water the potatoes can't handle. Stir frequently as it will start to stick once it starts to dry up a bit.

Once the potatoes look like potatoes again, throw the eggs in and give everything a solid stir. Grab your shredded cheese (any kind will do) and toss a handful or so on top. I usually put the lid on for a few minutes after that (off the heat) to let the residual heat from the pan melt the cheese. It should look something like this ...


It's not the prettiest thing I've ever made. It's not the healthiest, though it can be changed up with just about any protein (chicken or turkey sausage, for example) or even dinner leftovers (just throw in some spices ... oregano, sage, pepper to taste to replace the sausage's natural seasoning). It is sooooooo good, though, and it is absolutely cheap to make based on what you have on hand. You can throw in extra veggies if you have them (tomatoes and bell peppers are particularly good). My favorite: it's easy peazy and requires almost no time. I mean, really, I just put frozen things in a pan and they turn into magic. That's why my family named it after me.




Gratituesday: The Cure

The Preface:
I almost didn't post this or anything else for this week's Gratituesday. I'm not in the best of moods, and the post feels a little personal, a little raw for public consumption. For some, know this isn't out of spite, but because of a moment of enlightenment. For others, only kind words, please. Thanks, loves.

The Rest Of The Story:

I'm angry.

Yea, that's the way to start a post about gratitude, right? Suffice it to say that although I'm not going to tell you why exactly I'm miffed today, know there are only a handful of things that really get me. That's not why you're here reading today, though. You don't want to know about anger and unhappy feelings, but instead about the glory of being grateful to the one that is most deserving. Bear with me a moment, if you would.

I found myself getting angry about an hour ago now. In similar moments I would likely still be hot, probably firing off a verbal barrage of snarky remarks sprinkled with sailor level cursing targeted at the absolute (psychological) destruction of the perpetrator. (Wow, that makes me sound like a jerk, eh?) I like to win (most especially when I'm pretty sure I'm right). I especially like to let others know when I think they've done me wrong, and in days gone by I would have gone full tilt at that endeavor.

Today, not so much.

I'm not saying I didn't say anything in response to the situation. I'm not saying I didn't get mad. I already 'fessed up to that. Today, though, instead of raging on like a momentary crazy (even if that raging was only in my own head, which is oft times the case) I had this feeling that I should just step back and take a minute. I walked away from what I was doing. I sat alone and tried to clear my mind ... just for a minute ... like the meditation equivalent of counting to 10. Once I let go of the hurt for a second, focused on me, on breathing, on the absolutely divine silence ... I felt better. Not perfect, mind you, not even not angry, but better.

That's all it takes?!

My (quasi-rational) self is astonished. All this time, all those moments of intense emotions, all those bottled up feelings, and all I really needed was a moment to myself ... to think ... to breathe ... to redirect and refocus? I feel like this reads like I have some crazy anger management problem (much the contrary ... almost always I'm pretty calm ... too unaffected sometimes), but what it's really about is me being really grateful for the experience today that made me realize the coolest lessons are the ones I don't even know I'm learning while I'm learning them. I'm grateful for the leadership that points me toward the things I need to work on so long as I'm open enough to take a minute to be quiet enough to hear them. I'm grateful that even though I'm not perfect, it's alright not to be. I'm grateful for The Cure ... the silent moment, asking for an answer and humbling myself enough to take direction that I may be the last person on the planet to have figured out.

Mercy, me!

And, really, I'm starting to feel better already.



Have you read Pslam 73:26 today? You probably should.

For more Gratituesday, please go visit Laura and share in the 'giving thanks in all circumstances.'

20 April 2009

Menu Plan Monday and a Winner!

One would think that the point of menu plans would be to know what's for dinner any given day in a week. Apparently this week at my house, the menu was for knowing what absolutely wasn't for dinner instead. We had frozen pizza on Monday, as planned (and by planned I mean it had already happened when I posted Monday night) and then not another day of the week did we stick to the menu. The good news, though, is by some fluke we still managed to eat only from the pantries and freezers. Hooray for that! I didn't even have a Super Saving Saturday to post about because I avoided the grocery deals entirely this week. I would be lying if I said I didn't cringe a little about missing out on freebies at Walgreens, but alas, I seemed to made it through ok.

As for the menu, this week we'll be having ...

M: Frozen pizza
(Am I beginning to see a trend? Someone seems to keep having papers ... well, finals this time ... that need writing on Mondays. Good thing we have that stash of nearly free to us frozen french breads!)
T: Em Hash
W: Grilled and Glazed Ham Steaks with au gratins, green beans, and rolls
R: Crockpot Whole Garlic Chicken, mashed potatoes, green salads, roasted carrots
F: Mongo Night
S: Out with friends for Irish food, beer, and the.best.band.ever.
U: Chicken Pot Pie (from leftover crockpot chicken) with biscuits

The Updated Month of Menus is as follows ...

Crockpot Pork Roast x2
Seared Beef Roast x2 (One of these went to stir fry on Sunday, and the other will go to stir fry this week.)
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Spaghetti with Meatball Marinara
Corn Tacos x2
Em Hash (recipe ... er ... well, general concept forthcoming) x2
Homemade Pizza x2
Crockpot Whole Garlic Chicken
Chicken Pot Pie Casserole with Biscuits (from leftover whole chicken)
Ham and Potato Casserole
Grilled and Glazed Ham Steaks x2
Venison Helper (I still have the venison, we used beef instead, which may mean I run out of ground beef for the other menu items early ...)
Soup and Grilled Bacon & Cheese Sandwiches x2
Baked Pork Chops
Grilled Marinaded Pork Chops
Grilled Cod/Tilapia
Chicken Mongo (so much fun ... hopefully with pictures when we get to it)
Sausage and Spinach Lasagne
Sauce Your Own Meatballs and Potatoes (you pick: sweet & sour, bbq, swedish, marinara ... I keep the sauces frozen in bags and knock a chunk off to warm up based on what everyone wants)
Breakfast for Dinner: Pancakes, Eggs, Sausage
ItaliSoy Grilled Chicken Breasts (the easiest marinade in. the. world.)
Popcorn Chicken and Fries (from a recipe at the Heavenly Homemaker)
Fried Chicken Salads

Oh! I nearly forgot.

Now, the fun part ... the winner of the giveaway. The random number generator tells me that the winner of the Practical Cubed Cookbook Set is ... (drumroll, anyone?)


Congrats to her and thanks to everyone that participated! She has 48 hours from now (so, 11pm on Wednesday, April 22nd) to email me at jesuisem (at) gmail (dot) com or I'll have to randomly generate another winner.



ps, for a ton more menus, by people who seem much more skilled than I in keeping to them, check out Menu Plan Monday at the Org. Junkie.

17 April 2009

Frugal Friday: Date Night?

I have long heard about the wonderful advantages of having planned date nights to reconnect, spend some quality time together, and not be distracted by the everyday happenings of life at home. I have promptly ignored all of it. I often say we can't afford date nights. We don't have room in our budget for take out let alone dinner in a restaurant or a movie or the like. I know, I know, there are a million 'frugal' date night ideas. In any other situation, I would have probably blogged about 100 of them already, but I've been busy ignoring the most obvious thing in the world: Be and I should probably spend some time together on a semi-regular basis.

We are that couple that is more hands-off than hands-on. I mean that in the best way. We adore each other. We live in the same house. We share a life ... but we also go in 283 other non-together directions on an average day. From when we started dating (has it been 8 years? Ah!) and went 2 or 3 weeks without speaking to living 3 hours apart to living on different continents to Be's on the road job that kept him away from home for 4 weeks at a time once we did finally live together, we're kind of used to this. It's how we roll, and until now I haven't really had any issue with it.

Then, I sent an email.

Yes, an email, to Be, this morning to give him an update on our finances for the next few months. An email?! Who does that? Who automatically clicks into business management mode and sends off a stodgy sounding electronic message about net gains and accessibility rather than having a 10 minute face to face with the person she sleeps next to? Ah yes, apparently I do. This has been bothering me all afternoon ... like ... what kind of 'wife lady' (Be's less than adorable name for me) does that make me? I panicked momentarily and decided those date night people have likely been right all along.

Now, to solve this problem.

How in the world can I find space in our budget and time in our schedules for us to share a meal at a table for 2 rather than a table for 5? Ah yes, the internet. The good people at Restaurants.com are having a mid-month sale where all their $25 certificates are marked down to $3 if you use the promo code: FEAST at checkout. In addition, Restaurants.com is a participating retailer with Mr. Rebates (my online shopping cash back service of choice who happens to have a boatload of coupon codes and offers $5 cash to new sign-ups) so by clicking through their link to the resto site I get 20% cash back on whatever I spent there in my Mr. Rebates account.

$25 certificate to fancy schmancy Tap Room
$25 certificate to Be's favorite wood fired pizza place
- Mr. Rebates cash back

It should require magical powers to turn $4.80 into $50, but really it's as easy as a few clicks and a website registration. I can find $4.80 in the budget for two date nights with my lovely at places that do not serve food on plastic trays or have inside play areas. I could probably find $4.80 in my couch cushions right now (someone should really vacuum those ...), and if you're in need of a cheapie date night idea you may well be able to too.

Now, to find room in the schedules ...



PS: For more Frugal Fridays, check out its new home at LifeAsMOM.

PPS: Have you entered the giveaway yet? T minus 8 hours left to post your comments and score your entries for the set of 5 Practical series cookbooks. Go, right now, there isn't time to wait. <3

7 Quick Takes: Volume 1

For more quick takes and other amazingly sweet content, please check out the Conversion Diary!

I've never done a Quick Takes Friday before, but I'm a list maker at heart and a girl with a terrible addiction to bullet points, so I'm hoping to become a new regular. I've been reading Jennifer's blog for awhile, and it rocks. You should check it out. I'm compelled on occasion to talk about non-frugal life stuff (is there such a thing?!), so hopefully if we stick to quick takes I won't bore you to death with thesis research ideas or the politics of living in a house full of grown-ups (should that be in quotations? Perhaps.). Ha.

Hoooray! Today was the last day of classes for the winter semester. I still have exams next week, and a weekend full of writing take home exams (by which I mean a weekend full of putting off writing take home exams until Monday ...), but for a solid hour after class let out this afternoon I felt like dancing (or popping the top off an Oberon ...). Hoooooooray no more classes ... until May 4th.

My car is broken. Again. Boooooo. This afternoon, on the way home from school, we noticed an odd noise coming from the front passenger wheel well. This is another installment in a continuing saga in the recent past about my glorious '96 Chrysler Concorde and its steering/drive/wheel problems. Be thinks the "CV Joint" is shot. I think I don't want to know either what that is nor how much it costs. In the interm, until he fixes it (and thank goodness for not having to hire a mechanic!), no el Concordo driving for me.

I really love peanut butter blossoms. In fact, I had one just.this.second. The 3 dozen is no longer 3 dozen for sure, and the family consensus of the Unintentional Baking Day extravaganza is that 1: I should be more regular and intentional about them and 2: I need a new Honey Wheat Bread recipe.

My coupons are a mess. I have a veritable ton of inserts that haven't been cut yet and a huge stack of coupons that have somehow been cut but not yet filed. They're driving my internal perfectionist c-r-a-z-y. The upside, I cannot bring myself to go shopping without them all being in perfect order so I'm surely not out spending grocery budget money. The downside, I'm also paying less attention to the ads and as such have fewer GDAs (that's Great Deal Alerts if you're new here ...) for you fine folks. I hear there are free things to be had this week at both Meijer and Walgreens, but unless a magical elf comes and files my coupons or I get a flying carpet to replace the broken car, I'm not going anywhere. Shop for me, lovies, so I can live vicariously through your deal hunting.

It's beginning to feel like spring time here. My car thermo told me it was 66F when I got out of class today. 66! In Michigan?! In April?! Praise be! Warm weather makes me want to grow things ... which makes me want to organize seedlings ... which makes me remember that we need Be's dad to come by with the rototiller (hidden frugal tip: always borrow what you can and save the cost of buying your own ... with in reason) so we can add compost and be ready to plant after the temps stop dropping into the 30s at night.

Today is the last day to enter my very first blog giveaway. Have I mentioned how blasted excited I am about it? Seriously? Super elated to be able to 1: blog for you in the first place, 2: begin a second year at GSF, and 3: give you sweet streamlined cookbooks as a thank you. There's still time for entries until midnight EST, just check out the blog-iversary post for details.

Ooooh numbered lists, how I adore you. This has been fun!



14 April 2009

The Unintentional Baking Day

I had no intention of baking today, even after we ran out of bread two days ago. I had class until early in the evening. Then the dog had an appointment at the groomer's. There are a million things on my to do list in the week before finals, and baking was nary near the top of that list. I even read Crystal's Baking Day post this morning and thought, "Ah, man, we need bread. I just don't have time today." I got home a little before 6pm, Be decided he could take el dog-o on his own, and I unhappily went about making a quick dinner (read: not the one on the menu ... because I was convinced I didn't have enough time or energy to make it).

I turned the oven on for garlic bread to make dinner seem more substantial and less cobbled and rushed. While my one pot thrown together dinner was simmering, I convinced myself to throw the bread dough ingredients in the stand mixer so they could spin themselves around while I tended to dinner (what? you think pots stir themselves? More like, Em watches pot bubble as way to get out of making bread, perhaps?) since the oven was on already anyway. Then I remembered the crazy thing about bread ... it has to rise ... a lot. No way I was leaving the oven on for 4 hours so my bread could make it through both rises. Ugh. Now what to do with this residual oven heat?

Ah yes, these ...
Those are Molten Chocolate Chip Muffins ... a magical creation out of necessity when after promising my brother's girlfriend I'd make peanut butter blossoms (so she'd unwrap the kisses while I multi-task-o-rama'd) I realized I couldn't find the vegetable oil. A couple freebie muffin mixes from the lower pantry, a handful of already unwrapped kisses (lest her effort be for naught) plopped in the middle as they came out of the oven, and voila! Molten cake meets muffin tin! It so happens someone(s) made off with two of them before they even had a chance to cool. It may have been the Baked Good Bandit ... or perhaps Quality Control.

We finished up dinner, I did the handful of dishes there were, and went about doing homework (and owning Double Jeopardy). The kitchen timer let me know the first bread rise was done, and it took me no more than 5 minutes to punch it down, knead again, split the dough, shape it, plop it in the loaf pans, and put it back on the back of the stove to rise with the aid of residual oven heat from the vent. Then it was back to homework (and Biggest Loser on TV ... I love transformative moments on television) until the timer went off again. I set the oven to 350, tossed my bread inside, and had another moment of frugal despair ... "What am I going to double duty the oven with this time?!" Having found the vegetable oil (which was right where it always is, by the way, despite my best efforts to completely overlook it about 12 times) in the interim, I decided on peanut butter cookies since I had already promised them. They came from another freebie mix (shhhh, they're ruining my Betty Crocker street cred!), and by the time the bread was done they were ready for the oven.

See how excited Donald Duck is about baked goods?

TaaaaDaaaa! Two loaves of honey wheat bread and 3 DOZEN (how in the world did that happen with one lonely cookie mix?!) peanut butter blossoms cooling on my counter. I turned the oven off and left the door half way open (since we don't have small children ... probably a less brilliant idea if there are small fingers that could find their way into open oven doors) so the heat we had already created (and paid for!) could warm up the kitchen and living room instead of being funneled out through the duct work. I did the second handful of dishes, cleaned off the counters, ate a cookie, and thought about how close I was to none of it happening in the first place.

I am a busy girl, but 'busy-ness' is also my number one reason (excuse?) for not doing things. I keep trying to convince myself that there isn't enough time, or that things like baking are too complicated and will have to wait for another day when a pristine plan can be arranged. I am working on this. The reality is, though, that it took almost no more time than I would have spent in the kitchen anyway. I had to wait for dinner to cook, so why not throw together bread dough and muffins? I had to turn the oven back on for the bread, so why not put a batch of cookies in? I had to wait for the goods to cool before putting them up, so why not knock out the last of the dishes so I don't wake up to them tomorrow? I didn't really have to clean the stove with steel wool after that, but it was bugging me.

The moral of the story is, frugality takes time, yes ... but not nearly as much time as we like to pretend. If I can multi-task a few things, keep my kitchen clean, fill up our stash of homebaked (and FREE!) goodies and not really take any longer than usual anyway, why not? Once I was done, I felt better. I like to make things. I love to bake cookies (mostly, so I can eat them). I dig the frugal/homemade/green-ish lifestyle. I just don't always believe I can pull it off (yea, even the frugal commandos have doubts), and when I finished up, this post from Laura was at the top of my reader. How timely, indeed.

Now, I think it's time for (another) cookie.



Hey there! You know what's better than a cookie? A book about how to make cookies. You know what's better than that?! FIVE books about making things, including one about baking and another about chocolate. You know what's even cooler? They could be yours! Check it out and enter the giveaway!

Gratituesday: Just Add Water & Stir

Need more of your gratitude fix? Check out Heavenly Homemakers!

I am kind of a control freak. I don't really care about controlling your life, but I am nearly hyperventilate level (ok, not that bad) controlling of mine. I plan. I schedule. I make lists and charts and color codes. I like to have an idea of what's going on now, tomorrow, next week, and probably November. I want to see all the pieces in place before they even begin to come together. I want. I want. I want.

I used to think that made me one of those 'on top of her game' kind of people. Self-starter, multi-tasker, uber-organized ... all labels I enjoyed (except that I'm more a self-get 'er done at the last minute than a self-starter). Every part of my life was about having a plan, knowing the 47 million possible consequences and scenarios for every action (or inaction), and a lot of worrying about all of it tumbling apart 'house of cards in Oklahoma' style.

This would be a sweet Gratituesday if I was grateful for a full recovery from my control freak affliction.

It's not.

I'm not.

Well, because I haven't (recovered, that is).

The thing I'm learning, though, is that most times ... even if I get stressed about imperfections ... even if the plan gets tossed out the window ... even if I don't trust the process ... things pretty much wind up alright. Life really can be an unplanned hodge podge that you just add water to and stir. I'm finally learning to be patient, to relax, to calm down, and to just let it go. I'm learning that what I want isn't always what should be. I'm learning the trust The Plan rather than my petty attempts at planning. For that continuing lesson, for the one patient enough to teach me everyday, and for the understanding that it's ok if I don't get it the first time (or possibly, the 100th), I am grateful.

Always simply grateful,


Ooooooh, you know what else I'm grateful for? You! I can prove it! There are presents involved and everything! Did you check out the Giveaway yet this week? Details are here.

GDA: Free After Rebate Aluminum Foil

Reynolds has just announced their Earth Day promotion, a limited quantity rebate form for a FREE roll (up to $3.99) of their new 100% recycled aluminum foil. It's about time someone started making it 100% recycled since you can use it, melt it, remake it, and use it again about 100 million times. Hooray for freebies that are good for the planet.

Check out their reminder email sign up to get a note from them to stop by for your form on April 22nd!



13 April 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Can She Make It A Month? Edition

Have you checked out the menu list at Org. Junkie yet? You should. It rocks!

As promised, I'm back with the menu. I was stuck in "Em Finally Does Her Self-Employment Taxes" world most of the afternoon, and I'm riding the elated high of not owing my first born (yet to be conceived first born, mind you) to the tax machine for the first time in years instead of going to bed like a sane person would. I'm even getting money back this year ... like more than $8 (a 2 year state refund favorite in my early college days). Hooray for extra cash and double hooray for finally getting "Menu Monday" posted before Tuesday!

Now, as my fellow couponer/stockpiler friends will attest, when you get things for free or nearly so on a regular basis, sometimes your pantry (and closets, and garage, and basement, and under your bed, and hidden in your kids' toy chest, and the crawl space, and on ...and on ...) starts to accumulate random stuff. It starts with that one freebie candy bar tucked into the back of a pantry shelf and before you know it you have a years' worth of grocery bits and pieces. This weekend I (finally) got irritated enough with the dismal arrangement that had befallen both the upper and lower pantries (yea ... we have two ... we eat a lot of free food here ...), and got to work putting them back in order. I love to score great deals. I also love the security that comes along with having a grocery stockpile. If we were absolutely destitute tomorrow, at least we'd be able to eat for awhile. Every now and then, though, I get this sticky inkling that we need to downsize a little and use up what we have (and of course make room for MORE great deals ... muahaha!).

I've been tossing around the idea of a month-long menu for awhile now, mostly inspired by the Happy Housewife's free form 30 Days of Meals. The scheduler in me wants to wait until the beginning of a month so everything fits in nice and proper. The perfectionist in me couldn't get in gear in time to re-organize the pantries for an April 1st launch. The impulsive me just wants to do. it. right. now. I just keep thinking ... it's almost spring time ... that's fresh produce season ... I will need so much more room for putting up veggies and fruit this year ... and then its butcher time in the fall ... and the freezer is almost full ... you can't put a whole pig and half a cow in a full freezer ... not without a mess. Yes, there really are that many elipses inside my head. And so, since I finally got the pantries closer to orderly, I'm caving on schedule perfection, indulging my frugal tree-hugging maniac ramblings and starting in nearly the middle of the month. Eh well, 30 days are 30 days, right? They don't have to all fit on one calendar.

So, without further ado, our 30 Days of Meals based on what we have on hand. I will still be shopping as the deals allow, and we'll need butter (um, now, actually), milk, eggs, and likely lettuce at some point. We're also out of bread, but I have myself convinced that not going to the grocery means I'll be motivated to make some. It might happen. Maybe.

Crockpot Pork Roast x2
Seared Beef Roast x2 (I just bought these last night ... they're $2/lb at Meijer this week ... go get some!)
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Spaghetti with Meatball Marinara
Corn Tacos x2
Em Hash (recipe ... er ... well, general concept forthcoming) x2
Homemade Pizza x2
Crockpot Whole Garlic Chicken
Chicken Pot Pie Casserole with Biscuits (from leftover whole chicken)
Ham and Potato Casserole
Grilled and Glazed Ham Steaks x2
Venison Helper
Soup and Grilled Bacon & Cheese Sandwiches x2
Baked Pork Chops
Grilled Marinaded Pork Chops
Grilled Cod/Tilapia
Chicken Mongo (so much fun ... hopefully with pictures when we get to it)
Sausage and Spinach Lasagne
Sauce Your Own Meatballs and Potatoes (you pick: sweet & sour, bbq, swedish, marinara ... I keep the sauces frozen in bags and knock a chunk off to warm up based on what everyone wants)
Breakfast for Dinner: Pancakes, Eggs, Sausage
ItaliSoy Grilled Chicken Breasts (the easiest marinade in. the. world.)
Popcorn Chicken and Fries (from a recipe at the Heavenly Homemaker)
Fried Chicken Salads

Sides and accompianments may get a little wacky as I try to use up the pre-made boxed stuff we have accumulated. We aren't buying anymore once we get through what we have, but I refuse to let freebie food go to waste. Each meal also includes at least one cooked and one raw veggie, but we'll play that by ear week by week based on what's on sale, what everyone feels like, and what we have left in the freezer (ps, Green Giant Steamers are in the 10/10 11th free this week at Meijer ... nearly free if you have doubles and still cheap if you don't).

This week ...

M: Frozen pizza ... which is not on the list, so I guess that must mean the list starts tomorrow.
T: Seared Beef Roast, cubed potatoes, cooked carrots, green salads, biscuits
W: Grilled and Glazed Ham Steaks, boxed au gratins, frozen green veggie, raw carrots
R: Tacos (!!) and Spanish rice
F: Broccoli Cheese Soup with Grilled Bacon & Cheese Sandwiches (guess I'm going to need bread after all ...), salads
S: Homemade pizzas and dinner salads
U: Sausage and spinach lasagne, garlic breadsticks, salad

There you have it! I'm giving this Month of Meals thing a go, and hopefully by the middle of May we'll have freed up some wiggle room for the bounty of summer and early fall bacon. Who doesn't loooooove bacon?!

What are you eating this week?



It's a Blog-iversary and a Giveaway!

365 days ... 112 posts ... the inaugural year of Gratitude. Simplicity. Frugality. comes to an end today.

I was not new to blogging a year ago, but I was entirely new to blogging for people other than my friends, that was targeted around a topic other than me getting cranky about something, and that was (mostly) curse word free. I had started posting entries about using up leftovers and grocery store deals, but save a small handful of my friends, my other blog's readers weren't so much interested. After some prodding by Be, my mom, and others, GSF became a reality and you know the rest of the story (or at least you can find it out by clicking through the archive).

I hope that you've enjoyed the posting here so far. I've really enjoyed writing over the last year, scoping deals, telling you hilarious (and often disastrous) stories of our frugal endeavors, and being a part of the frugal/simple/saver/personal finance/homemaking bloggy community. I have learned a ton about the mechanics of blogging for an audience, and I appreciate all of you for sticking through that learning curve.

In the coming year, look for more coupon strategies, deal alerts, stories of crazy frugality, gratituesdays, and a special spring/summer series coming super soon. If you have any suggestions for material you'd like to see, or questions about ... well, anything, I'd love to get a note from you about them.

Photo: Jen Chan
Now, on to business ... an "-iversary " be it Anni-, Blog-, or otherwise wouldn't be complete without two of my favorite things: cake and presents. Being that it is likely impossible to ship cake without it turning to mush ... and that I don't know that cake would ever last here long enough to get to a post office ... we're sticking with presents. I have a giveaway for one of you, a set of 5 cookbooks from the P Cubed Practical Series. They are quick reads with glossy pictures of all the recipes which always helps me decide 1: if I should try to make it or not and 2: if I screwed it up at the end when it doesn't look at all like the picture. Included are a copy each of Practical Pizzas, Practical Stir-fry, Practical Baking, Practical Desserts, and Practical Chocolate; all are approximately 20-30 pages.

Sooooooo, how do you enter?

1. Post a comment to this entry saying ... well, whatever you want to for your first entry.

2. Include in that comment your favorite part of GSF and/or a question or suggestion for the next year for your second entry.

3. Post the giveaway info to your blog and link back to GSF, then come and tell me you did it (including the link) for your third entry.

That's 3 chances to win for each of you! The giveaway will remain open until midnight EST on Friday, April 17, 2009 so you have plenty of time to get in on the fun. Once closed, I will use a random number generator to choose the winner who will then have 48 hours to respond or forfeit their prize.

Thanks again for a great first year. I'm looking forward to an even cooler second one. Now, quickly, run off and tell your friends about the giveaway so you can get all your chances in and I can send you this stack of yummy cookbooks. While you're gone, I think I'll have some cake ...

Simply (and thankfully!),


(I'll be back soon with the menu ... )

11 April 2009

Super Saving Saturday

I didn't get to Meijer until today, just in time to grab a handful of this week's deals before the ad change. For the record, this one Meijer mealbox (store) coupon per transaction thing is beginning to annoy me. Take heed, corporate, if you're still reading (they used to show up in my stat counter's IP log all the time). The average family probably needs more than one of any given item. My family of 5, and those with even larger families may well be inclined to switch to a store with price matching and less ridiculous transaction limits. /rant, and on to the deals ...

5 Suave deodorant:on sale for $1.79 - 5th item free promo - 75c/1 coupons = 41c for all 5!
4 Starkist tuna packets: 25% off = $1.43/ea. - $1/4 mealbox - $1/2 manufacturer = 68c/ea.
4 Swanson's chicken/beef stock: on sale 3/$2 - $1/4 mealbox - 40c/1 manufacturer = 32c/ea.
2 French's mustard: on sale for $1 - 50c/1 manufacturer coupons = 50c/ea - $1 catalina generated by buying 2 = FREE!
5 Kraft salad dressings: on sale for $1.67 - $1.50/1 manufacturer coupons = 17c/ea + $1 worth of FREE produce with each bottle from a tearpad coupon.
1 McCormick seasoning grinder: on sale for $1.67 - $1/1 mealbox - $1/1 manufacturer = 33c MONEY-MAKER!
2 Ziplock Containers: on sale 2/$4 - $1/2 mealbox - $1/1 manufacturer peelies = 50c/ea!
4 Swiffer refill items: on sale 25% off for a total of $22.98 - $10 rebate I'm about to mail in for buying $20 worth = $12.98 (not wonderful, but we have been out for a looooong time).

Total SPENT: $34.94
Total SAVED: $38.17

4 Starkist pouches
4 Swanson broths
1 McCormick grinder
2 Ziplock containers
5 Suave deodorants

Total SPENT: $9.74
Total SAVED: $19.15

4 Starkist pouches
4 Swanson broths
1 McCormick grinder
2 Ziplock containers

Total SPENT: $5.84
Total SAVED: $12.61

4 Starkist pouches
1 McCormick grinder

Total SPENT: $3.39
Total SAVED: $6.16
TOTAL SAVED: $83.86 ... 62%!

Hooray deals! I could have made it $5 sweeter if the transaction limits didn't exist for the mealbox coupons because I have this $5/$60 cat that I've been carrying around forever hoping I can get my total over $60 so I can use the darn thing. So far, no luck. It expires the day after tomorrow ... eek.

How did you do this week? Any great deals?



07 April 2009

Gratituesday: Lessons Learned

So, I hear the economy isn't looking so hot these days. This isn't news in Michigan ... at all. We've been enjoying the lovely recession-esque times for quite awhile. Years, I think. Tight financial times mean two things: belt-tightening and re-evaluation of priorities (hopefully) and personal financial crisis (hopefully not). You could likely ask just about any random person the street about someone they know and their financial meltdowns and get story after story about foreclosures, job losses, judgements, homelessness, hunger, and the like. None of that am I grateful for.

Some people very close to me, whom I will not indicate my relationship to as there are people who know the real life me who are likely reading, are having a rough go of it. They're overextended in credit. They have a vehicle with financing they cannot afford. They recently suffered a temporary job set back dropping their income to one instead of a much more comfortable two. They are spending more than they can really afford to, and are now scrambling to switch things up to make ends meet in the short term. In an economy where this same scenario is being played out nationwide, they are not unique or alone. That makes my heart sad.

We, Be and I, could just as easily been in the exact same place. We have one income (half an income?). We have a very tight financial situation ... and credit card debt ... and more month than money sometimes. The thing that keeps us from that same desperate, terrible feeling crisis mode is that we simply recognized the need to change earlier ... in a better economy ... when our backs weren't as tightly to the wall. We were lucky enough to get an eye opening lesson in budgeting, stewardship, the evils of credit debt, and necessary frugality before we had to crash course through it to save our skins. We were close ... precariously close ... but we came out alright. For that, I am grateful.

We didn't get here alone. We aren't that cool. We didn't even have the wherewithal or foresight or self-awareness to know we needed change until the last second, and we surely didn't think up the way we do things these days ... the methods that saved us from absolute financial ruin. For those involved in that process, who pulled us away from the edge, who made it possible that we can have the skills necessary to ride out a recession (hopefully), I am grateful.

For Dave Ramsey's straight talk about zero based budgeting and the slavery that is credit card debt, I am grateful.

For baby steps and an emergency fund (albeit small) that has saved us when Be needed prescriptions, the propane man came unexpectedly to refill the tank, my car tried to fall apart, and the security of knowing that any of them could happen again without me having a panicked hissy fit, I am grateful.

For the ladies of the budget board I used to co-host that taught me everything I know about stretching budgets, dealing with creditors, the legality of some financial institution practices, the necessity of miscellaneous categories, and the envelope system, I am grateful.

For my collected group of online friends, the source of my couponing initiation, the support system that applauds you for saving $4 extra this month and cares about how much change you pulled out of your couch, I am grateful.

For sweet personal finance bloggers who regularly teach me via my Google Reader about retirement and investing and all kinds of assorted frugal hacks, I am grateful.

For the crisis that led us to rethink the way we did things, the near rock bottom that we had to hit to get there, and yes, even the tears involved, I am grateful, for I know now that the hard part is over quickly and the rest ... when you know how to manage it ... is smooth sailing.



For more grateful goodness, check out the Heavenly Homemaker!

Menu ... Tuesday? Again?!

Menu Tuesday does not have the ring Menu Monday does. We are still working with my father's restrictive menu options, so although we for sure have a menu, I can't seem to get the darn thing online in time (also, ps, it's the week before finals ... ugh). Off the top of my head, I remember this much ...

M: Chicken Stir Fry
T: Hamburger Stew
W: Pork Chops and Potatoes
R: Chicken Something
F: Fish and Baked Fries
S: Leftovers?
Su: Open ... because I don't know what our holiday plans are just yet.

There's a much more detailed version sitting on my counter ... in the kitchen ... across the house from where my office is ... and darn it if I'm not just far too lazy to go get it tonight (did I mention the finals ...? grrr). I hope you have your menus planned, loves. They're lifesavers for sure. Tonight, when I needed to spend the afternoon/evening working on my 20 page paper for Thursday after a morning/afternoon of 'daddy duty' all I had to do is point Be in the direction of the menu and leave him to it. We didn't starve. I didn't have to run around like a mad woman. Everyone wins.

To see more menus ... real ones ... with more details than my sketchy memory can give you tonight ... check out Org. Junkie.



05 April 2009

A Frugal Girl's Dilemma

We are a generally broke people, Be and I. We're down to 1/2 an income since he's still battling the work comp people (almost 2 years) and my coaching job takes a hiatus over the spring and summer. Darn those kids and their not wanting to go to school all year so I can get paid! Ha. Really, though, we don't mind our necessitated thrift all that much. We like being good stewards, paying down the debt from when we weren't so great at that, and trying out creative ways to stretch our tiny budget all over the place. My dilemma today, though, is when is it ok to stop being practical for a hot second and splurge?

My knee jerk reaction, after years of penny pinching and general miserly-ness is to say "Never!". Living a super thrifty lifestyle changes you over time, I think. Most things are no longer necessities, but luxuries cut out to make the zero based budget balance. Every extra penny goes to debt payments, and every money related thought is about how to better utilize current resources for even greater needs. Many, especially in our spendthrift populous, would think us thrifty folk nutjobs. We hear our friends, family, finance experts, and people on the street tell us all about how we just have to have discretionary cash to spend as we please without recourse or we will surely go insane and spontaneously combust. Yet, there are many of us, the frugal underground, who have not turned to self-immolation (and shhhhh, but we're happy about it). I have been one of the few, the proud, the unquestioning frugal for years and years ... until possibly, today.

The backstory here is that we have rewards checking accounts through our bank. They're free, and we signed up for the points rewards program when they started offering it to people who already had accounts instead of only new openers a couple years ago. Then, of course, we forgot about it. All this while the bank has been keeping track of the transactions we've made, and has added points (2/$1 plus bonuses for savings account transfers, opening new accounts, direct deposit, and EFTs) accordingly. I remembered this ... today, and logged in to see where I stood as far as points totals and reward costs were concerned.

Ooooooh, boy!

It's apparently good to forget about your rewards account for ... um ... years. I have something over 35,000 points! Immediately, of course, I called Be to make him log into his account and check his balance ... a whopping 33,000! Each of us is sitting on roughly $75 worth of redeemable value whether we choose giftcards, cash, or something from the prize (read: lame) catalog (who needs another umbrella, anyway?). As I skimmed the pages of available gifts, my pulse quickened when I saw that Barnes and Noble giftcards were on the list.

Ok, I confess ... I am a book-a-holic. A bibliophile who agreed at the beginning of this journey toward good stewardship to use the library instead, making a rule that I couldn't spend any money on books until well after we were debt free. As our budget is often precariously arranged, this rule has not been a problem. I don't have credit I can use anymore, so no money = no risk of spending it on books.

Faced with the choice between cashing in my points for more practical giftcards like those for the gas station and CVS or the entirely splurge-tastic (new word! ha) B&N, I am paralyzed. On the one hand, I should be a good steward. I should be practical, always. I should do the right thing and add to my family's budget with a smile on my face. On the other hand, it's free money ... money we would not have otherwise had anyway ... and money I would absolutely looooooooove to spend on books. Oh, my dear frugal friends, what is a girl to do? Be, with his cool exterior told me to do whatever I wanted to do. Ugh. That means nothing when you have a competition going on between wants and probably shoulds.

So, my lovely readers, I'm taking suggestions. What would you do if you could choose a $75 gift card? Would you splurge? Would you be ascetic about it? Would you have to write blog posts about it, and hope the comments helped you decide? Help a girl out here, pretty please?



04 April 2009

Super Saver Saturday: Party Time! Excellent!

"Are you having a party?", asked the cashier, the manager in charge, 5 or 6 people we passed on the way to the check out, and the people behind us in line as we pushed an entire cart full of 2 liter bottles of pop to the checkout lanes. It took 2 of us to drag the darn thing up to the front of the store in the first place. 2 liters, it would seem, are quite heavy.

My answer, of course, a simple "Yes?".

I don't like to answer a lot of questions at the grocery store. I often get weird looks for what makes it on the conveyor belt, and other than casually replying that I have a hungry family of 5 to feed, I don't go into details about why we need 17 boxes of spaghetti or 40 cans of tuna fish at one time. It was just easier this weekend to go along with the assumption that no sane person would buy 55 2 liters (which is how many fit in the cart at one time without toppling over) unless they were throwing a huge party. Bring the limes over, apparently there's a social gathering predicted for my basement 2 liter stash in the near future.

My shopping for the week included (and we're up to 7 people this week as we have house guests while my father recovers from open heart surgery) ...

Trip Numero Uno
2 2ltrs Big Red: 88c/ea on sale - B3 Squirt, G BR Free coupon = FREE!
7.77lbs of sweet potatoes: 99c/lb = $7.69
(I cannot WAIT for sweet potato fries this week! Yay!)
4 2ltrs Regular Coke: $1.49/ea = $5.96
3 2ltrs Diet Coke: $1.49/ea = $4.47
6 2ltrs assorted Squirt: 88c/ea on sale = $5.28
7 2ltrs assorted Dr. Pepper: 88c/ea on sale = $6.16
12 Yoplait: 50c/ea on sale - $1/10 instant store deal - 40c/6 coupons = 35c/ea
6 Stouffer's french bread pizzas: $2/ea on sale - B5, G1 Free store deal - $1/3 Meijer coupons = $1.33/ea
4 boxes Orville microwave popcorn: clearanced to $1.60/ea (1/2 price! yay!)
Bottle Deposit: $2.20

Total Spent: $49.68
Total Saved: $27.76

Trip Nombre Deux
2 1lb containers of strawberries: $1.50/ea on sale = $3
18 2ltrs assorted Dr. Pepper: 88c/ea on sale = $15.84
7 2ltrs assorted Faygo: 58c/ea on sale = $4.06
2.94lbs of green grapes, 5.05lbs of red: $1.49/lb on sale = $11.91
Bottle Deposit: $3.10

Total Spent: $41.39
Total Saved: $17.08

Third Time's A Charm
45 2ltrs assorted Dr. Pepper: 88c/ea on sale = $39.60
8 2ltrs assorted Faygo: 58c/ea on sale = $4.64
Bottle Deposit: $5.30
- $9 in catalinas from the Kraft deal last week

Total Spent: $40.54
Total Saved: $34.77

Overall Total Spent: $121.61
Overall Total Saved: $79.61
(adjusted for returnable deposits ...)

That's about a 40% savings ... but on a more realistic note, it's at least an extra $60 in my pocket. This family of mine is full of pop drinkers, and although they deal rather well with my odd meal concoctions, wacky deals, and stockpiling they refuse to deal without a rather regular supply of pop. It's the one thing I pay full price for when we're out rather than just getting by without ... sad when we don't even buy milk until it goes on sale. Ha. So, reality-wise, pop sales are my lifesaver. They're why I spend an entire afternoon doing transactions at Meijer when the limit is 4. They're why I load my trunk to capacity with plastic bottles. They're why I look like a lunatic throwing a party with my cart full of soda. I get to keep that $60+ in my pocket now, even though I had to lay out quite a bit to stock up. 100 fresh 2 liters should hold us for a while ... I hope.

Did you nail any good deals this week? Tell us about them by linking to Super Saver Saturdays at MoneySavingMom!



03 April 2009

GDA: Pop and Excedrin

Meijer has Dr. Pepper brand varieties of pop for 88c through tomorrow (Saturday) and best of all there's no limit. Usually when these sales happen there's a limit of 4 making for an entire afternoon at the grocery repeating transactions. No limit means time saved, and I am digging it.


Faygo 2ltrs are 59c! I don't like their cola products, but my family can put a dent in the red and orange varieties.Yay!


Excedrin 24ct is on sale for 99c. Use the $1/1 coupons and make it FREE!

Any other great deals before this week ends?