Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday's backyard happenings

Here are some pictures from today's progress:
They cleared out the brush and pavers that were around the deck. Steve finished taking out the steps to the deck.

Natalie checking out how big the backyard is now. The trash pile and the plants are now gone. The plants to her left still need to be taken out.

They still need to take out the bush and finish cleaning out the bed. What a difference!

Is it worth it to have a warehouse membership?

I have read numerous debates about whether or not having a warehouse membership is worth the cost of joining. We actually have a membership to BJ's and Costco. I think that they are worth it.

I had a membership to Costco through my first employer. I found that there were several things that I liked to get there, so when I left that job and we moved to Richmond we got our own membership. We live less than 5 minutes from Costco.

BJ's just opened also less than 5 minutes away from us last winter. I found a coupon in the paper for a free day 60 day trial and thought I would give it a try. I actually compared prices with some of the things that I get from Costco on a regular basis. Some things were less expensive, some were about the same, and some were more expensive. I can't really say that surprised me. When it was about time for my 60 day trial card to expire Steve found out that his company was offering a discount membership for employees, and that we would be able to sign-up for 15 months at the 12 month price. I decided to keep the membership.

Which do I like better? They both are different. There are some items that are less expensive at BJ's or Costco - so I go there for that item. I do like that BJ's accepts manufacturer coupons and that their bulk sizes aren't as large. BJ's has Pampers diapers (Costco doesn't) so I figured I have saved the cost of membership by just buying diapers there. Both stores have a good selection of books, seasonal items, and clothes. They both also have a fuel center. Costco carries furniture and wall art, which I haven't seen at BJ's.

You may be surprised that the warehouse price may not be the least expensive price. I have found that things I used to swear by buying only at Costco, such as Chinet plates, paper towels, toilet paper, and laundry detergent, are actually less expensive if I pay attention to the sales cycles and match-up the sale with the coupon. It is also a lot easier to manage a container of laundry detergent that is for 32 loads than one that is for 132.

Both BJ's and Costco send out monthly coupon books to their members. I have recently found out that you can combine the coupons in the BJ's book with your manufacturer coupons. The other nice thing is that if the item is a multi-pack item you can use a manufacturer coupon for each item (that has a barcode) in that package. I have tested this several times and it works!

I think the bottom line is that you have to be aware of how much an item cost. When you are looking at warehouse prices you have to be aware of the unit price and what that unit is. Some items it is per pound, and some are by the ounce. It is also important to look at the item and make sure that you really will use it. The 144 packets of instant oatmeal, may not be worth the savings for you if you don't have the storage and you only eat oatmeal every once in a while.

I have read about several people who say that they share a membership with a friend or family member. That may be an option for you as well. I know that BJ's will let you shop there without a membership you just have to pay a fee. I also read somewhere (I don't remember where) that it is not unusual for BJ's to offer the free 60 day pass in the fall - so take advantage of it if you are interested in BJ's.

So, what do I normally buy at Costco or BJ's? It depends, right now BJ's has the lowest price on organic milk and on plain soy milk. I usually buy gas and diapers from a warehouse club. I don't buy lots of perishables from them, but I do usually buy baby carrots because that is a regular snack item at our house. I will shop at either place for food for church socials. I can find great deals on clothes at both places. (I went to BJ's last night and got 2 pairs of Levi's for myself for $24.) We bought our Wii at Costco and the games are reasonable at both places.

I think that what it all comes down to is that you can never go to one store (warehouse, mass merchandiser, grocery, drug, or department) to find the lowest prices on everything. You have to be willing and able to shop around and keep track of what size and price the item is in each individual store. Yes, it takes time to do that, but you will be surprised at how much you can save.

Monday, September 28, 2009

More progress in the backyard

It has been really neat and exciting to watch the progress on the backyard. I feel like I am in my own episode of an HGTV show. Today before they got started they had to pump out the remaining water from the rain last week and Saturday. Then they finished building the forms around the pipe. This afternoon the cement truck came in and they poured the cement. I was shocked when I looked outside late this afternoon and saw the majority of the pipe covered with gravel and sand. We were actually able to walk across our backyard without going over a bridge! The trench with the pipe installed is now covered!
The shrubs and plants that are going to get taken out tomorrow. Our property line ends right about where you see our neighbor's shed. The trees are going to stay.

More plants and planters that are going to get removed tomorrow.

A view from the street - the white fence is our neighbors yard. Everything to the left of the fence (except the tree) is going to get taken out.

The county wouldn't allow us to completely cover the drainage ditch. We had to leave a 6 foot area. The drain area where Steve and the girls are standing will remain. The plants are going tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What happened in the backyard on Thursday

I took these pictures this afternoon. The guys came to the house this morning and realized they were not going to be doing any work today. We had a storm last night and all of the water from the neighborhood seemed to have drained in our backyard. They have a temporary dam there - I don't really know why. The guy working on the project told me to check it again on Sunday morning to make sure it is still in place because it is suppose to rain really heavy again Saturday night.

The standing water that kept them from pouring cement today.

All of the pipe - it isn't finished. They still need to seal the joints.

The deck got demolished - the only thing left is the few steps that led to the deck. Steve ran out of light to finish taking them out. Don't worry we set the dead bolt lock on the main door and the storm door so no one will forget and walk out the door.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The "before" pictures of the backyard

Steve found the pictures we took of the backyard area in early March. (I had him take the pictures because I was trying to win a contest with a local TV station called, "Best on the Block".) The area around the drainage ditch actually looked worse when we started the project because bulbs popped up over the Spring and Summer and it looked really overgrown.

View from the street. You can see how the backyard slopes in the picture.

This is actually a picture from our master bathroom window. You can see the deck below and the drainage ditch in the middle. You can also see all of the gravel that we had in the backyard.

Another picture from the master bathroom window. You can see the drainage ditch went all the way to the end of our yard and it also goes through our neighbor's yard.

Let's add more chaos to my crazy world

I have posted a few pictures below of what is going on in our backyard this week. When we bought our house 2 years ago it had a storm drain in the backyard. We were told by our realtor that the previous owners had looked into getting it covered, but they decided to just lower the price and let the new owners (us) take care of it. We were finally able to find someone who was able to work with us and Henrico county to get it fixed. Thankfully the price tag for the fix was about a third of the price the previous owners quoted us.

I have pictures somewhere of what it looked like before, I think Steve must have them on a different memory chip or saved to his computer. It was an eyesore so we never really took pictures out there.

They started demo on Tuesday morning, they removed all of the brush and plants that lined the drainage ditch (the previous owners had a small bridge over it and made it look like a stream.) They also started tearing out the concrete that lined the ditch. On Wednesday they did more demo and started to prepare the trench they dug with gravel so that they could start laying pipe. This morning they have started laying the pipe and they are hoping to have it completed today.

The trench filled with gravel ready for pipe to be laid. (I took the picture off of the few boards we have remaining on the deck)

Laying the first piece of pipe.

We decided to start demolishing the deck. We are hoping to get rid of some of the slope in the backyard, so by getting rid of the deck they can fix the entire back yard. I want to build a patio. Steve thinks he wants to keep a deck. We have to decide on something soon.

The trash pile, the gravel that got brought in, and the pipe (there are a total of four pieces being installed) that will go in the trench.

What the neighbors see when they drive by. We have had lots of neighbors stop to watch the guys work and ask them what they are doing. The construction vehicles are also preventing me from getting in and out of the garage so I am having to park on the street and go through my front door. I will be happy to have my garage back.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A sticky burnt mess...

I am trying to be better about organizing my day, my activities, and even my meals. I have been really challenging myself to use up a good portion of what I have in my freezers. One reason is that I am about to start baking and freezing Amish friendship bread for a friend who is getting married in October. My second reason is that I get nervous when it is hurricane season and I have one deep freeze and a second refrigerator freezer full in the garage. I have also been trying to eat at home more. It is nice to enjoy a meal out, but a lot of our eating out is tied to poor planning.

In order to use up what is in the freezer I have been trying my hand at menu-planning. It really does make the day a little bit easier when I have an idea of what I want to make for dinner as opposed to the 4 o'clock panic of what's for dinner tonight? I sat down Monday and wrote down some ideas of things that I knew I had available for main dishes and a list of what I had available for side dishes. That wasn't so bad and it didn't take very long. Now comes the hard part, making sure I have everything available and making sure I plan enough time and know what I am doing to make the meals happen.

Tonight was one of those nights. I thought I had it all planned out. I planned a meal of honey-orange marinated salmon, steamed asparagus, and rice. I found the salmon recipe on one of my favorite recipe sites - www.allrecipes.com. I like allrecipes because you can read the reviews from others who made the recipe and get tips and suggestions for the prep or side dishes. The recipe had several positive reviews. The recipe was to make a marinade out of soy sauce, orange juice, honey, olive oil, ginger, green onions, and apple juice and let the salmon sit in the marinade in the refrigerator for at least an hour, then remove the salmon from the marinade and bake it. No problem - my kind of recipe not a lot of mess and an easy clean-up. I had read several reviews from people who took the marinade and reduced it on the stove while the salmon was baking, they said it made a yummy glaze to pour over the fish. I thought it sounded easy enough and that it would be a nice addition to the recipe.

I thought I was on top of everything - I prepared the baking dish, got the piece of salmon into the dish and had it in the oven. I poured the marinade into a small saucepan and turned it on high to make sure it got to a boil. My plan was to let it boil for a minute then reduce the heat to low so it would sit and thicken. That was my plan. I made one crucial mistake. I started washing the few things I had in the sink while I was waiting for it to boil. When it started to boil I thought I turned the burner down to low, except for some reason I turned the burner in the front on low. (The sauce was on the back burner.) I didn't even have a pan on the front burner. I didn't realize it until after I finished washing up the dishes and noticed that the back burner was still red. I tried adding a little bit of orange juice to the sauce, but I knew I was in trouble when it splattered and steamed as soon as I added it. I grabbed the handle and ran the water in the sink as hot as I could and tried to rinse the pan out. It was not coming off. After rinsing it out a few times I got the top layer off, but it was still burnt and sticky on the bottom. I added hot water and some dish soap to the pan and just let it sit. I tried washing it out after dinner and it was still stuck on there. I did make a little bit of progress when I tried some soft scrub. It is a Calphalon pan so I don't want to use steel wool. So, the pan is sitting again on the stove filled with water and dish detergent. I hope I get it off the bottom of the pan. The mess was one thing, the other bad part was the smell. It was horrible. We ended up eating dinner with a window open to try to get rid of smell. I have had a candle burning all night and still feel like it smells like burnt soy sauce. Yuck!

On a positive note, the salmon itself turned out really good and I would make it again. I thankfully didn't burn the rice, and the asparagus was good with some butter and fresh Parmesan cheese shredded on the top. I think I will try the recipe again and even try to make the glaze again. I do think it would add to the dish, but for tonight it just wasn't meant to be.

Any suggestions on removing a sticky, burnt mess from my sauce pan will be appreciated!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What was I thinking?!?!?!?

I seem to have had a lapse in judgement today. I realized that the girls needed brown shoes that they could wear to church and other places. I remembered that I had a store credit for a local Richmond-based shoe store. I had bought a pair of shoes there ~3 years ago and because they were from "the back room" they wouldn't refund my sale but gave me a store credit. I don't shop in that store very often because I don't normally have pleasant experiences there and I feel that they are expensive. I had forgotten about the credit for several reasons. 1) I don't shop there very often, 2) I had gone in there a few times and didn't see anything that I wanted to purchase, 3) in that time period we had bought a new house, sold a house, and had a second child, and 4) they didn't give me anything (a receipt or gift card) for the credit. They said it would be tied to my account which was accessible by my phone number. I don't recall being told about any expiration, but I could have forgotten.

Steve found a coupon in a neighborhood mailing for $20 off of a $100 purchase at this store so I suggested we go there and look for shoes. I needed a new pair of shoes for work. I have had the same pair for several years and now my feet ache at the end of a shift. Steve needed a new pair of casual brown shoes also. He had worn his out so that the stitching was starting to come loose.

We get ourselves together and head to the shoe store. We get there and you have to sign in with the children's department for someone to help you. We sign in and we wait. It must have been close to nap time for several kids because there were several fussy children. It was finally our turn and unlike an adult shoe store where you show them the shoe you like and see if they have it in your size, the saleslady measured Natalie's foot then asked us what type of shoes we were looking for. She then proceeded to go into the back and returned with four different pairs of brown shoes. She was very nice and helpful and Natalie tried on all of the shoes and told us which ones she liked best. We decided on one pair and then went to try on some shoes for Megan. The same scenario, she just went in the back and returned with two pairs of brown shoes that were available in Megan's size. We decided on a pair and proceeded to the register to go pay.

I realized while we were sitting there that we didn't pick-up the $20 off coupon - yes I was buying two pairs of children shoes for $100!?!?!!? I figured I would get the credit and then come back later and use the coupon for me. The lady couldn't find the credit for me. She was very patient and looked in the computer twice and couldn't find it. I was frustrated and mad at myself. They also only had one register working and the fussy kids from earlier got in line behind us and the parent's were getting frustrated with waiting in line. I told the lady to just ring up the shoes and I would check with them when they weren't as busy. I bought the shoes and then we headed up to the adult section.

I found a replacement pair of brown shoes for me and when I tried them on they felt so comfortable that I must have lost my mind. Steve had taken the girls outside because they were going stir crazy after an hour in a shoe store and I forgot that I was suppose to wait and come back because of the coupon. (I splurge and buy quality shoes for work - it is worth every penny when you stand for long periods of time.) The saleslady who was helping me with my shoes took them over to the register and when the cashier went to ring me up I again asked about the store credit. She couldn't find anything either. I bought my shoes. The more I thought about the missing store credit the more upset I got.

I was so upset that when I got home I went on-line and found the exact shoes I bought for myself for $25 less. I am taking my shoes back next week. I then started thinking about how not having my store credit available any more was in a sense stealing my money. I decided to look more into the shoes I bought the girls. The saleslady had been very nice and helpful, but now I knew the size to get. I asked Steve if after nap time could we go to Target and look for shoes for the girls. We did - and do you know what? I found 2 pairs of brown shoes and 12 pairs of socks for less than one pair of the shoes had cost at the other store. I agree that they may not have the same quality, but they are kids shoes. They will outgrow them in a few months. I may still keep Natalie's expensive shoes. They had a good sole that she can run and play in and not slip. The Target shoes are dressier and will probably get scuffed the first time she wears them. I am also hoping (if I keep them) that the expensive shoes will fit Megan in a few years.

I am now planning on looking to see if I can find the bank statement from when I remember buying the shoes I returned. I really just want to have a dollar amount for the credit. I am going to write a letter to the store manager explaining the situation. I do accept part of the responsibility, but I feel that not giving a customer some sort of receipt or paperwork to show a credit is not a good policy.

At the end of the day what did I learn from this experience? First - try to avoid impulse shopping. I need to do my research first so that I know what is a reasonable price for what I am looking to buy. Second - make sure that if I am going to use a coupon or sales flyer that I have it with me before I leave the house. Third - if I don't have something in writing (such as the store credit) check it out before I invest an hour or more in the store. I probably wouldn't have purchased all of the shoes if I realized the credit was gone. Fourth - Make sure I know the store's return policy before I purchase anything. If I had realized the policy 3 years ago I probably wouldn't have bought the shoes I returned and I wasn't able to get a refund.

Thankfully, I can return the shoes from today's fiasco next week and I will be able to get the amount refunded to my credit card. I have only lost the time invested and have hopefully learned a valuable lesson.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Grocery Pictures

Ukrop's 9/16 (Double Coupon Wednesday)

6- Betty Crocker Potatoes = 0.89 each
8- Betty Crocker Warm Delights = 0.50 each
2- Old El Paso Taco Dinner Kits = 2.50 each
4 - cans Old El Paso Refried Beans = 1.25 each
2 - 8 roll packs of Bounty Paper Towels = 4.88 each
5 - cans Food Club Diced Tomatoes = 0.75 each
4 - jars of Jif Peanut Butter = 0.75 each
4 - jars (32 oz!) of Smuckers Grape Jelly = 0.49 each
4 - Kraft BBQ Sauce = 0.50 each
1 - Pampers Jumbo Pack (27 diapers) = 6.99 (I left them with my sitter)
1 - Wonder Whole Grain White Bread = 0.99
5 - CLIF Mojo Bars = FREE
1 - Freshetta Brick Oven Pizza = 3.99
8 - Green Giant Frozen Vegetables = 1.00 each
1 - Silk Soy Milk = 2.84
6 - Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt Cups = 0.27 each
1.04 lb of Meatloaf Mix (Ground Beef, Pork, & Veal) = 2.78
Bagged Lettuce = 3.29 (What was I thinking?!?!)

I actually made 2 separate transactions yesterday and got $5 off of each order by purchasing $20 of Selected General Mills Items. I didn't take the amount off of those items just the total order.

Shelf Price = $150.68
Total after sales & coupons = $60.31
Total savings = $90.37 or 60%

Kroger 9/13 & 9/15
I had Kraft cheese coupons that expired 9/15 and they were having a great sale on cheese so I had to stock up. I see lots of grilled cheese in our future.

6 - 12 oz packages of Kraft American cheese (16 slices) = 0.49 each
6 - blocks Kraft 2% cheese = 0.49 each
2 - 8oz bags of Kraft shredded cheese = 0.49
9 - tubs of Philadelphia cream cheese = 0.49 each
3 - blocks of Philadelphia cream cheese = 0.49 each
2 - 32 oz Coffee-mate creamers = 1.99 each
8 - large Jell-O Vanilla puddings = 0.77 each (for making Amish Friendship Bread)

Shelf Price = $84.23
Total after sales & coupons = $22.88
Total savings = $61.35 = 73%

I think I did pretty well. I am planning on making meatloaf and au gratin potatoes tonight for dinner with steamed veggies and probably a salad with that expensive lettuce. For dessert we will have individual mini molten lava cakes from my warm delights stash. I guess that means I need to finish this post up and go cook. Have a great night!


I have to apologize for giving you misinformation. In my previous post about my plan of attack for Ukrop's I said that there was a 0.75/2 coupon for Old El Paso products and I was wrong. It was for Ortega. I realized it when I was shopping. I did the same thing one other time where I actually bought the Old El Paso brand and gave the cashier an Ortega coupon, she forced it through and I didn't realize it until I got home. I made the purchase at a Food Lion in Lynchburg that was having a triple coupon deal. I was so excited about all of the free and almost free stuff I was getting that I didn't realize that I picked up the wrong product to use with my coupon until I was back in Richmond.

I also found out thanks to a friend that there was a 0.50 off 6 Yoplait yogurt cups that was available on-line through http://www.smartsource.com/. I also found the same coupon on the http://www.ukrops.com/ website. There is a tab for "weekly ad" under that tab from there you can choose online coupons and select coupons to print from your home computer. I have not had any problems using internet printables (IP) at Ukrop's. They have started to refuse any IP over $2 or any that are for "free" product because of coupon fraud.

I still used my "plan of attack" for Ukrop's I just ended spending $8.67 before tax instead of $7.17. It was still a savings of $12.50 or 59%. Not bad for things that I can keep on hand for college students, side dishes to send to someone when I take them a meal, or veggies to heat up for lunch or dinner. I will try to post a picture later. I know you are dying to see pictures of my groceries. :)

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Ukrop's "Plan of Attack"

Ukrop's for the first time ever - or at least that I am aware of - is having a promotion that if you buy $20 of select General Mills items you get $5 off your order at the register. I did call to confirm that it was being taken off your order and they are not giving you a slip to hold on to for your next purchase. I did not find out if there is a limit on how many times you can do this deal. You can check out the weekly ad here at www.ukrops.com

I sat down with the ad and figured out how I am going to get $21 worth of groceries for only $7 after this deal and coupons.

Here is my plan (It will only work on Wednesday because that is the only day that they double coupons up to 0.50. Ukrop's will not double more than 5 like coupons per transaction.):

Old El Paso Refried Beans 4 cans = $5
Green Giant Simply Steam 4 bags = $6
Betty Crocker Warm Delights 4 packages = $6
Betty Crocker Simply Potatoes 3 boxes = $4.17
Total = $21.17
Take $5 off for spending $20 -$5
Old El Paso 0.75/2 (2 coupons) -$1.50
Green Giant 0.50/2 (2 coupons) (doubled)-$2
Betty Crocker Warm Delights 0.50/1 (4 coupons)(doubled) -$4
Betty Crocker Simply Potatoes 0.25/1 (3 coupons)(doubled) -$1.50
My grand total before tax = $7.17

Here are some other good deals I am hoping to get tomorrow as well:

Wonder Whole Grain White Bread 0.99 a loaf

Yoplait Yogurt cups are 2/0.88 - I have a coupon for 0.40 off of 6 that will double on Wednesday which makes them $1.84 for 6 cups (0.31 each).

Bounty Paper Towels (8 rolls) are 5.88 - I have a $1 off coupon so 4.88 or 0.61 a roll

I won't get this because we don't really drink soda, but Coke 6 packs of 16.9oz bottles are 5/$10. That is a good price if you like the individual bottles.

Jif Peanut Butter is 4/$5 with the savings spot coupon (limit 8)
Smucker's grape jelly (32 oz) is 0.99 - I have a coupon for $1 off when you buy 1 Smucker's Jelly & a Jif Peanut Butter. This is redeemed by Smucker's so you can't combine another Smucker's coupon with it, but you can get a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly for $1.24. That makes for some cheap PB&J - especially when you combine it with the 0.99 loaf of whole grain bread.

Tostitos & Frito Lay Jar dips are 2/$6 - there is a coupon for buy 2 bags of Tostitos get a free jar of salsa - so for $6 you can get 2 bags of chips and a jar of salsa.

Freschetta Pizzas are $4.99 - there is a $1 off coupon making them $3.99 (great to leave for sitters!)

Pampers Jumbo Size Diapers (19-50 ct) are $8.99 - there is a $2 off coupon making them only $6.99 a pack.

I noticed in the store last week that the CLIF Mojo bars are on a multi-week deal for $1 each. There is a coupon in the summer Mambo Sprouts for 0.50/1 - if you go on Wednesday you can get them for FREE! (Remember don't get more than 5 at a time.)

Those are the high points. I didn't really look at the meat sales because I am rather stocked up on meat right now. If I see something marked down I may consider it.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The marker

I have been chugging along with my daily duties around the house, sorting laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, and I realized that Natalie needed her toenails cut. Natalie hates to get her fingernails & toenails cut. (I remember dreading it also when I was little.) I tried to make it a "fun" thing by letting her take off the mini stripe of toe nail polish she still had from about a month ago. That was the fun part. She had pulled out an activity book and a marker to draw with while I was removing my nail polish. When I finished I asked her to come see me and when she saw the nail clippers in my hand she took off running. (Which by the way was not acceptable.) She then proceeded to run and jump up on my bed with the marker still in her hand. Do you see where this is going? She jumped up on the bed with a green marker in her hand and now I have a green squiggly line on the bedspread that I just got about a month ago after searching almost a year for a new one.

Am I mad? - yes. Did she mean to get the green marker on the bedspread? - No. I could tell by the look on her face that she didn't mean to and that she knew that was bad.

So, what is my parental plan of attack?

Well, I am trying to get the stain out of the bedspread - it is cream and brown so bleach is not an option. I tried just baby shampoo and cold water, it helped some. I think I may try aerosol hairspray.

I sent her to her room (isolation) when we both realized what she had done. I needed to calm down before dealing with her. She was still upset about having to getting her toenails cut and knew she was in trouble for getting marker on the bedspread, so she needed to calm down also.

I am going to talk to her about obeying me when I call for her and that it is not acceptable to run away when she doesn't like something.

I am also going to take away her markers. This is the second marker incident in about a week. The first one she accidentally marked on her shorts. It is now obvious that she is not ready for that responsibility. If any of you took the Ezzo courses of Prep for Toddlers or Growing Kids God's Way, the markers would be defined as something "outside of her funnel".

She really is a good little girl, but let's face it she is just like all of us, a little sinner, and she needs to be taught how to obey her parents so that she will learn to obey God.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Super Saturday Savings!!!!!!!

We started off our outing by getting a late lunch. We had a late breakfast and Megan was taking a nap so after she woke up we went to The Olive Garden for lunch (at ~2:30) for the Never Ending Pasta Bowl. Steve & I enjoyed our pasta, salad, and breadsticks while Natalie got a meal from the kid's meal and Megan sampled everything. I had suggested we go there so that we wouldn't really need to worry about dinner later on and I had a coupon for $4 off 2 entrees - that made the Never Ending Pasta Bowl only $6.95 each instead of $8.95 each. We walked out of there stuffed and our meal was ~$25 including tip. (Steve took care of the bill so I am calculating in my head what it should have been.)

Would you believe that each of these items were $1 or less at Target after I combined sales & coupons? (Do you like my 15 month-old hand model?)I was very proud of buying the Glade candle tins at Walgreens earlier this week for $1 each after coupon, but I found any even better deal at Target this afternoon. They were on sale 3/$5 or $1.66 each (before coupon). I looked in the tins to see if they had the $1.50 off coupon inside them that I had found when I was at Walgreens. Unfortunately, some other shoppers had gone through all of the tins on the shelves and had taken them. (That would have been an awesome deal.) I did have a $2 off of 2 Glade scented candles coupon that I was able to use so I got the tins for $0.66 each. I also had 2 coupons for FREE Glade candle refills when you purchase a Glade candle tin. That means I got 2 candle tins and 2 sets of refills (that also had a bonus candle in each pack) for $1.32.

The Schick Quattro Razor was a money maker (MM) for me. I found a razor with 2 refill cartridges for $7.84 - I had a Target coupon (from the Sunday paper a few weeks ago) for $4 off and a manufacturer coupon for $4 off. The coupons usually adjust to the price, but this one didn't so I made 0.16 on each razor I "purchased".

The Dove deodorant was another good find - I had a $2 manufacturer coupon from the Dove website and a $1 Target web coupon that made my final price for the deodorant $0.64!

I found out from a posting on Hot Coupon World about Rimmel mascara for 0.29 after coupon and clipped my $2 coupons from the paper and got 6 tubes of mascara that were regularly $2.29 for $0.29 each!

The Cheerios cup was FREE thanks again to a Target web coupon and the Scrubbing Bubbles Fresh Brush 2-in-1 was FREE thanks to a manufacturer coupon. I had to purchase a Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Gel (not pictured - that was $2.94 after coupon) and I got the Fresh Brush (that was $6.29) for free.

These are my Walgreen's deals: (Isn't the model doing a great job?)

The candles are just more of the same candle deals I got earlier this week. I found more of the $3 off of 2 Glade Fragrance Collection coupons and after RR I was able to get all of the 2oz candles for FREE. I was also able to get one more Glade Sense & Spray for FREE after RR. I found one coupon for $3 off a Glade Fragrance Collection product and applied that to the large Glade candle after RR it cost 0.99.

The backpack was a bonus find. Natalie needed a backpack for preschool and it needed to be large enough to hold a folder. We looked in Target hoping to find one on clearance with the back-to-school stuff and didn't have any luck. I thought to look in Walgreens when I was buying the candles and saw they had them marked down 50%. It isn't a high quality back pack, but it will be great for preschool and she was very excited when she saw it and tried it on. I ended up getting the backpack for only $3.45 by getting it on clearance and redeeming a $2 RR. Perfect!

We rounded out the day where I got 4 more bags of Nature Valley Nut Clusters for 0.66 each and 2 jars of baby food for free at Ukrop's. I will give the baby food to someone at church.

I do want to let you know that I did buy other things while we were out today, I bought a lunch box for Natalie to take her snack in to preschool, hair barrettes for the girls, some pants for Natalie. Steve was very proud of himself and found a BBQ set that had originally been $49.99 on Target.com in the store for $12.50. We found a Wii game marked down 50% and he also found a Ball canning set on the clearance rack. I am seriously considering learning how to can fruits and vegetables.. I'll talk more about that later. Right now it is time to get myself ready for tomorrow.

Peace Out!

Some of the cheap & free items this week

It has been a crazy week and I have a rather full pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, so I haven't really shopped much this week. These are a few of the deals that I got that I could easily pull out or haven't been put away.

Cheap & Free things I got at Ukrop's this week:
  • Suave Shampoo & Conditioner - FREE (on sale 2/$1 and I had a coupon for $1 off 2)

  • Nature Valley Nut Clusters - I actually got more than the ones in the pictures, but we have eaten some of them already. They were on sale with a spot coupon (a Ukrop's in-store coupon) 3/$5 (or $1.66 each) then I had manufacturer coupons for $1 off a bag so I got them for 0.66 a bag. I know that is not free, but it is cheap and a decent snack.

  • Ritz Crackerfuls - 0.10 each (4 boxes) - I had a coupon for a free crackerful when you bought a box of Ritz crackers. Ukrop's had Ritz crackers on sale 2/$4 (which I thought was a good price) and I got free snack crackers for the girls.

Free & Cheaps at Walgreens & CVS:


  • Schick ST3 Disposable Razors - on sale for 6.99 with $4 ECB back. I had a $3 manufacturer coupon and rolled an ECB I already had for $3.98 so I just had to pay the tax and I got FREE razors.


  • They were running a register rewards (RR) deal with the Glade candles. You could buy either 2 of the 2oz Fragrance Collection candles or 2 of the glass candle holders (or mix & match) 2/$4 and earn a $1 RR. I had several different coupons that I used. I had a $3 off 1 glade fragrance, a $3 off 2 glade fragrance, and a coupon for a free glade 2oz candle.

  • When I found the 2oz candles the cashier showed me the Glade candle tins sitting with them. They were on sale for $2.50 and inside the tin was a coupon for $1.50 off (that they let me use when I was buying the item) so I got them for $1 each. I also had coupons (go figure) for a FREE Glade candle refill when you bought a Glade candle tin - that means I got 4 tins (with a candle in each one) and 4 Glade candle refills for $4 plus tax!

  • FREE Glade Sense & Spray. They were on sale for $5.99 with a $2 RR and I had a $4 coupon off.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A tip from Ann

I just started making and freezing my on chicken broth about 6 months ago. I wanted to pass on a tip for how I package it to go into the freezer. I had read about using ice cube trays, but I think this is a little bit easier.

Here is a picture of what you need to get started:
  • your own homemade chicken broth
  • a ladle
  • a measuring cup (optional)
  • zip-top freezer bags
  • a permanent marker
  • a tall mug, glass, or tumbler
  • a cute helper (optional)

I label each bag with the marker before I start dividing up the broth. I label it with the contents, amount, and the date I froze it. I generally freeze it in 1 cup portions. That way it is easy to add to a recipe (or use for rice which is one of my favorites). You may ask why the tall glass? I use it to help support the bag so that I don't end up with chicken broth all over my counter. Here is a picture of what the bag looks like in the glass.

I have a wide ladle which can sometimes still be messy going straight from the bowl to the bag so I transfer my broth to a spouted measuring cup to make it easier to pour. The next picture is my finished product. (I had to cut Natalie out, she was making a "scary" face.)

After I get my broth in each bag I let out as much of the air as possible and lay the bags flat in the freezer. By laying them flat they don't take up very much space in the freezer and they are really easy to thaw when I need it. To thaw them I just put the bag in a bowl with some warm water for a few minutes and then it is ready to go.

I hope this technique is helpful. You can use it for any liquid or puree that you are going to store or freeze in a plastic zip-top bag.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A day off

When I worked full-time as a pharmacist I used to dread going back to work the day after a holiday. That day was always a horrible day because even though people knew that the pharmacy was going to be closed for the day, somehow they didn't think far enough ahead to realize that their pills were not going to magically multiply in their prescription bottle and they always ran out on the holiday. They then proceed to arrive at the pharmacy first thing in the morning the day after the holiday so they can complain about running out of their medication. I would usually hear some sort of remark like, "I need to wait for this. That is one of my heart medicines and I didn't have any to take yesterday or today." I, of course, with a concerned look on my face would say something like, "Oh no. Well, I have several people ahead of you so it is going to be about 20-30 minutes before it is ready." I would then go to refill the prescription and realize that if they really were taking it like they were suppose to they would have needed a refill last week. I always called those days Monday & Tuesday rolled into one.

In my stay-at-home mom world I don't dread the day after a holiday. But, I have realized that I am still playing catch-up for having a "day off" yesterday. I obviously was still a wife & mom, but it always feels like a vacation day whenever Steve has the day off also. Whenever Steve has a day off it is amazing how much smoother the day seems. Yesterday we were able to run some errands and get some things that we needed (see my Old Navy haul 2 posts before this one). But, because we were out of the house, things at the house that normally get done on Monday didn't get done. So, here I am trying to finish two days of chores in one day.

Thankfully it is not as stressful at home. I got to finish my morning coffee, hear my girls giggle while we were playing this morning, and eat lunch with them. Those are great benefits and a reason I am happy to not be working in a pharmacy today, the day after a holiday.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Bedtime is sometimes a struggle at our house. Natalie is not allowed to get out of her bed unless she asks to get up. She is only allowed out of bed to go to the bathroom. Sometimes she really does, sometimes she just walks in there and pretends. She will however call us to come into her room. We don't generally respond to her - she is the queen of stalling. There are times however when we will go in there to either explain to her that she needs to be quiet so she doesn't wake-up Megan, or to pick up a book that has fallen on the floor. She continued to call for Steve tonight, "Daddy, please come here." We were playing the ignore game which works most of the time. Tonight though, we got a good laugh out of her bedtime stall game. She had called out "Daddy" several times and Steve would respond with "Just a minute Natalie and I'll be there." Finally after a few minutes of silence from her room she yells "Daddy, please come here. I am being sooo patient." Evidently we need to have some more conversations about what patience is.

Back to school shopping

I have an Old Navy credit card that gives me benefits and extra savings in the store. They are currently running their "Stuff The Bag" promotion. They send you a card to bring to the store and you get a free reusable bag to "stuff" and everything you buy during that transaction is 20% off (everything - including sale & clearance items). I also earn what are called "bucks back" after I spend a certain amount they will send me a coupon for at least $10 off my next purchase. I didn't realize that you aren't able to combine your bucks back with stuff the bag, but not to worry I had enough items that I just made it two separate transactions.

Natalie needed clothes. She has outgrown the things she wore last Spring and she is going to start preschool next week. Steve needed new khaki pants for work. I thought Megan and I deserved a few things also, so we tried or luck and found some deals at Old Navy. We were able to get even better deals with "Stuff the Bag" and my "bucks back".

Prices are after discounts and before tax:

5 pairs of khaki pants - $12 each
v-neck sweater - $16 (splurge for me)
fleece lounge pants - $8
2- layering tanks -$4.80 each
Halloween t-shirt - $4
7 - long sleeve t-shirts (5 for Natalie & 2 for Megan) - $4 each
2- short sleeve hoodies (1 for each girl) - $3.59 each
2 - ruffled wrap dresses (1 for each girl) - $5.59
2 - striped dresses (1 for each girl) - $5.99 each
3 - short sleeved henley shirts(for Natalie) - $3.59 each
8 - pairs of long "soft"pants (7 for Natalie & 1 for Megan) - $4 each
2- 2-in-1 long sleeved t-shirts (1 for each girl) - $4 each
2- placemats (to play with play-dough) - $3.60 each

Price before sales & coupons = $314.37
Total spent = $197.30
Total savings = $117.07 (38%)

There is also a pair of jeans in the picture that I got from Kohl's. Today was the last day to use my Kohl's cash I had earned a few weeks ago. I had $10 in Kohl's cash and found a pair of jeans on the clearance rack that had been $60 marked down to $12. I ended up walking out of Kohl's with the pair of jeans for just $2 (plus 0.10 tax). I saved $58 off of the original price for a savings of 97%!!!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ukrop's Labor Day Sale Savings

Ukrop's was having a great sale for Labor Day Weekend. One of the really great deals that they had and I didn't pick-up was Coca-Cola 2 Liters for 0.59! We don't really drink soda and I didn't want to have to find a place to store them. Would you believe I got all of this for only $17.42 (including tax)?!?!?

Here is a list of what I was able to get for less than $20:

Food Club Sandwich Bread: 0.50

Sauers Lemon Pepper Seasoning: FREE

2- 12 packs of Diet Snapple Green Tea Peach: 2.99 each

2- Eggo Buttermilk Waffles (8 count): 0.49 each

2- Kraft American Cheese Slices (12oz or 16 slices): 1.00 each

2 - Kraft Cheddar Cheese Blocks (8oz): 1.00 each

2- Oscar Mayer Bun Length Beef Franks: 1.50 each (I can't stand "meat" hot dogs, I have to have "beef" ones)

1.35 pounds of Ukrop's Own Peaches: 1.33 (0.98/lb)

1- 4 lb bag of russet potatoes: 0.99

Total Savings: $32.71 (66%)

Good bye Big Bad Wolf

We have season passes to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and went there Friday afternoon. I got to ride the Big Bad Wolf one last time. Steve and the girls hung out at the kiddie rides (with the camera) while Katie and I waited in line. We decided that since it was our last time and the line wasn't very long that we would wait for the front car. It was worth it and we said good-bye to "The Wolf".

Here are a few pics from our day:

Farewell Big Bad Wolf

Natalie's first ride on the Battering Ram

Megan showing that she doesn't have to hold on with both hands while riding the swings.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Biggest Savings To Date

I went to my normal Ukrop's yesterday afternoon and they didn't have any of the Chinet plates on the shelf that are on sale and that I have coupons for. I was trying to referee the girls and get out of the store so I didn't ask if they had anymore in the back. I knew that we were going to be near another Ukrop's while we were at church last night and brought my coupons with me to see if we could swing by there on our way home. I went to the store (I walked in at ~9:45 and they close at 10) and saw a display of the plates on an endcap. I didn't want to take all they had and ran into a manager who use to work at my store and started talking to him. He was making fun of my plates asking me what type of party I was having, and then showed me that he had more on the shelf with the other paper plates. I was able to get 18 packs of plates and use up the rest of my coupons. I also spotted two 6-packs of kaiser sandwich rolls marked down on thrift. They are on sale this week for 0.99 each and with the thrift markdown I got them for 0.66 each. I went up to the check-out with my 18 packs of plates and 2 packages of rolls and walked out paying $3.15 (that is including tax)! My subtotal was $1.32 and I paid $1.83 in tax.

My savings on this trip = $73.88 (98%)

Sorry I didn't take a picture, it was late when we got home and I just wanted to get everything put away and everyone to bed.

Wednesday Night

We are leaders with the college group at our church. We are getting ready to start a new series (really we are waiting for the books we ordered to arrive so we can start it) to supplement what our pastor is teaching us from the Book of John. So, we watched a DVD last night. The DVD was titled Indescribable it is presented by Louie Giglio. It was a great DVD! The DVD is about how vast the universe (that God created) is and how small we are. I was so impressed with how he was able to apply what we have learned from scientist (primarily NASA scientist) and show us how little we are in the universe, yet God loves each of us, cares about each of us, and sent His son (Jesus) to die for us. Our discussion following the video actually took a little while for us to get talking because we were just so "blown away". In case you are wondering - yes they did have the music from the song Indescribable by Chris Tomlin in the intro of the video and we sang it as group after watching the video. If you aren't familiar with the song here is a link to YouTube with the song. This link isn't a fancy video, but it is simply the lyrics in a slide show while Chris Tomlin sings. I hope you are able to view it and enjoy the song.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Free Stuff!!!!

Ukrop's Double Coupon Wednesday! I apologize for the color of the picture, or it may just be I am using a different computer this afternoon and the color settings are different. Who knows? I am not the computer guru around our house, it is definitely Steve.

I was able to get probably one of my best double coupon hauls today at Ukrop's. I would have enjoyed it more if we hadn't gotten caught up with other things and were later than we should have been. Both girls were picking at each other because they were so tired and I think by the time we left all 3 of us were close to having a meltdown.

Here is the info on my deals this afternoon:

Chex Mix = 0.50
Crystal Light On-the-go Tea packets = 1.39
2- Kid's CLIF twisted fruit = FREE
4- Hefty foam plates (50 count) = FREE (I am going to take them to church.)
4- Snack Pack Puddings (4 count) = 0.52 each
2- Kraft BBQ Sauce = 0.25 each
6- Reese's Peanut Butter Cups = 0.04 each
2- Breakstone Light Sour Cream = 0.75 each
6- Yoplait yogurt = 0.35 each

Final Price (after coupons & before tax) = 9.95
Total savings = 34.31 (78%)

Free Chinet Plates and some other good deals

I needed to run out this morning and pick-up a few things for the things I needed to do for the day. I knew that I could get FREE Chinet plates this week at Ukrop's. They are on sale 2/$4 and I have $2 off Chinet lunch plates. I found out late last week and ordered 20 $2 off Chinet coupons off of eBay. They arrived yesterday and I was ready to go shopping today. (For the record I am not paying for the coupons, but for the time and services of the person who prepares them.) I had a few from the paper a few weeks ago, but I was planning on getting the plates and using them at church. I only used a few of the Chinet coupons today. I didn't want to be called a "shelf clearer" so I will probably visit several different stores this week to use all of my coupons.

Here is the summary of my Ukrop's trip:

6 packs - Chinet Lunch Plates = FREE
Food Club Hot Dog Rolls = FREE
4-Hunt Snack Pack Puddings (4 count)= 0.52 each
2- Kraft Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese Blocks = $1 each
2- Kraft American Cheese Slices (16 slices) = 0.93 each
2- Oscar Mayer Beef Franks = 1.50 each (I also had a coupon for buy 2 get a free pack of store brand hot dog rolls)
3 pounds of Organic Gala Apples = 4.99
1.30 lb of bananas = 0.38
2 - Cucumbers = 1.78
1 pint of Grape Tomatoes = 3.49

Final Price (after coupons & before tax) = $19.06
Total savings = $43.30 (69%)

I also hit "the K grocery store" for some deals I couldn't pass up. I was all out of gallon size zip-top bags and needed to keep them on hand for my Amish Friendship Bread starter.

Here is the summary of my "K grocery store trip"
8- Hefty One Zip Gallon Bags (13 count) = 0.50 each
7 - Dial Liquid Hand Soap = 0.30 each
6 - Shamrock mmmmmilk (3 chocolate & 3 whole) = FREE
1/2 gallon of Private Selection Organic Soy Milk = 2.29
Final Price (after coupons & before tax) = $8.39
Total Savings = $40.24 (82%)
Not too bad for a quick trip out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The things kids say...

This morning Natalie crawled into bed with me and was asking me about what we were going to do today. She then asked me, "Is Dad going to stay home tomorrow?" I replied, "No, tomorrow is Wednesday. He has to go to work." She said. "Mom, do you know what Wednesday is?" I wanted to hear her response so I said, "No, what is it?" She responded with a big smile on her face and partially singing, "Double coupons day at Ukrop's!"

Do you think I have a future couponer?

I looks like it is going be another crazy week

It is Tuesday and I am already caught up in the busyness of this week.

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday that I knew was going to be a long appointment. I love it that they ask you to arrive 30 minutes early to register and fill out paper work then when it really is your appointment time you are still waiting, and waiting in the waiting room. I had to have a MRI (a follow-up of a problem from several years ago that I am suppose to have monitored once a year) and that requires me to take Valium. Otherwise I can't handle being in the tube for over an hour. Because I don't normally take sedatives I asked for a lower dose and I still felt rather out of it and in a fog afterwards. Steve had to take off the morning and go with me because I couldn't drive with the Valium on board. I ended up coming home and took a nap that afternoon when the girls (and my sitter) laid down for naps. I just felt "out of it"all day yesterday, so I got very little accomplished. I couldn't even figure out dinner so we had a gourmet meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Because I lost my day yesterday I feel like I have even more to get accomplished today and in the next few days. I am having company over for dinner tonight so we can discuss and hopefully nail down some future plans for the college group at church. Tomorrow night is church and Thursday night I am in charge of the food and set-up for a meeting at church with WMF (Women's Missionary Fellowship). I will spend Wednesday shopping for the stuff I need for Thursday and Thursday prepping and preparing the food for Thursday night. I don't have to work this Friday so we may go to Busch Gardens. I still need to check out the weather to see if that is possible. I have to work Saturday - from 9-7. We will probably grab dinner and some last minute sale items after I get off work before getting ready for Sunday morning and crawling into bed. Then it will be Sunday again - the day of rest that really isn't when you are active with your church. :) I am looking forward to Monday, Labor Day, Steve has the day off and maybe we can have a family day.

I guess with all of the cleaning and cooking and everyday mom duties calling me I should wrap this up and get started. I will get more accomplished if I get moving and stop surfing the internet.