Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Canned Goods Rack for the Pantry

When we moved into our house a few years back, the one thing that I was glad to gain was a pantry in the kitchen. At our last house, we had used a closet in our basement to store extra food items. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that the wire rack shelving that seems to be used so universally in the closets is not at all suited for holding significant numbers of cans. At least not with the configuration that I have that only has side supports due to the relatively small size of the pantry. To combat this, I found myself organizing my shelves with cans lining the three wall sides and then filling the middle with other "lighter" stuff. Unfortunately, this way of organizing resulted in me double stacking cans and made locating items more challenging. I knew there had to be a better way.

I wanted something that would allow me to organize my cans where they would be easily accessible. As I thought about possible solutions, I decided that the racks that Campbell's Soup was displayed in on shelf was exactly what I needed to help me organize my pantry. I figured that something like that would be easy to find. I searched high and low for something that I could purchase. I tried a number of racks, including both wire and plastic soda can organizers, but nothing worked for canned vegetables. I even contacted Campbell's directly to see if I could either order through them or if they could put me in contact with a supplier. All to no avail.

Then, one day, I found it. I found it on QVC.com (just checked, I can't find it there anymore). It has plastic rails with metal connection rods. It was a little more money than I had hoped to spend, but I decided to maximize my shipping dollar and to allow for more storage, I would get two racks. This turned out to be a great idea on my part, because when I received the racks, I discovered that when you bought two you could use the enclosed connection rods to connect the two racks, creating a "third" rack between the two I had purchased. The two racks I had purchased were perfectly sized for a standard vegetable can (and canned pasta, beans, tomatoes, etc) and the additional rack created with the connection rods is the perfect size for soup cans. Actually, if I had bought the third rack, I would then be able to have five "racks". The modularity is a very nice feature.

Each rack has two sections, one inside the other, so it allows for the storage of a lot of cans. I keep vegetables in one section, beans in one, tomatoes in one and canned pasta meals in one. I have two sections for soup, which I have split between eating soups and cooking soups. It is a great organization tool. Since you load the cans from the top and remove them from the bottom, it helps to make sure that we are using the oldest product first.

I keep the rack on the floor, it is much too heavy to put on a shelf. This required me to relocate things like soda that I had previously stored on the floor of the pantry, but freed up some additional space for me on the shelves. I still struggle to keep the balance of the pantry organized, but my cans are always in order.

This is one organization tool that I am glad I found.

For other Kitchen Orgnazition Solutions, check out Works For Me Wednesday Kitchen Organization Edition at Rocks in My Dryer. Find other tools to make your life easier at Toolin' Up Tuesday at Life As Mom.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Kroger Deals - 9/28

We don't have a Kroger where I live, so this weekend when we went to visit my parent's house, I took the opportunity to stop in at Kroger. I had read about them having the 4-packs of Cottonelle for 99 cents and I had a stack of 50 cents off coupons that they double. Of course, a number had expired last weekend, but I still had 3.

I was able to get

3 - 4-ct Cottonelle single rolls
2 - V8 Soups (on sale for $2.50)
6 - bananas
1 - 3 pk of Pampers Clean and Go wipes, 60ct/pk (on sale for $5.99)
2 - Pillsbury Brownie mixes, family size (on sale for $1.)

and, after coupons, my total was $10.27. Without the wipes, my total would have been $5.27, but I only had one wipe left in the pack in my diaper bag, so I definitely needed these.

Coupon Giveaway

In celebration of reaching 100 posts, I am doing a coupon giveaway. Below this post, are two other posts...one for an envelope with over 70 coupons, worth over $120 in general coupons and one for either an envelope of cat or dog-centric coupons (along with some general coupons) with about 40 coupons valued at over $50 for each the cat and dog-centric coupons.

You can enter each giveaway twice, here is how:

1. Leave a comment. For the pet food, please indicate if you are a cat person or a dog person.

2. Post my giveaway on your blog and then leave a comment with a link to your post.

Giveaway #1 & Giveaway #2.

I will use a random number generator to determine the winners. You have until Friday, October 3 at 5:00 pm Eastern to enter.

Happy Giveaway!

Coupon Giveaway #1

There are over 70 coupons, worth in excess of $120 in this giveaway. Coupons are for cleaning supplies, personal care items, vitamins, food, and more.

You can see the rules for entering here.

See the pet-centric giveaway here.

Coupon Giveaway #2 - Pets

This coupon giveaway is for one of two sets of coupons that are cat or dog-centric. Each envelope contains over 40 coupons worth over $50. In addition to the pet products, there are also coupons for cleaning, food, etc. Please be sure to specify which set of coupons you are interested in.

You can see the rules for entering here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

At our house, we don't eat breakfast or lunch together during the week, so there is minimal planning that goes into those meals. For us, it all focuses around dinner on the weekdays.

Last week, we deviated a lot from our plan, so many of last weeks show up again this week.

Waffle House
Skyline Chili


Grilled Cheese/Tomato Soup

Cajun Chicken Jambalaya


Cube Steaks/rice/green beans


Weekdays breakfast is at daycare for my daughter, the rest of us eat cold cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal, toast or whatever strikes our fancy. Lunch we pack, usually leftovers for me. My son either packs or buys lunch at school. If he packs, it is generally a lunch meat sandwich or a PB&J with some sides.

Check out other menu plans for the week at I'm An Organizing Junkie Menu Plan Monday.

CVS Scenarios - week of 9/28

The ECB deals seem pretty light this week. Only three in my circular. Of course, if you haven't done them yet, this is the last week to take advantage of the September deals. Although there are some other deals that don't seem too bad.

Scenario #1
$5 CVS Challenge
Transaction #1

1 - Covergirl Clean Liquid Makeup

- $1 Covergirl Mfg coupon

$4.49 OOP, earn $5.49 ECBs.

Transaction #2

2 - Colgate Toothpaste
1 - SoftSoap
3 - Campbell's Soup
1 - Dawn
1 - V05 Shampoo

- $1 Colgate mfg coupon
- $1.50 IP Colgate mfg coupon (click here)
- $.35 Softsoap Mfg coupon
- $.50 Dawn Mfg Coupon

$5.63 total. Pay with $5.49 ECB from first deal and $.14 OOP. Earn $2. ECBs.

The total for the two transactions is $4.63 and you have $2 ECBs to carry forward, or use them to pick up 4 more V05 Shampoo/Conditioner.

Scenario #2
Here is an alternate scenario that uses one of the September Monthly deals on Arnicare Homeopathic Pain Relief Gel, there is a $2 coupon here.

Transaction #1

1 - Covergirl Clean Liquid Makeup

- $1 Covergirl Mfg coupon

$4.49 OOP, earn $5.49 ECBs. (Anyone know if you can use the BOGO coupon from the October Brandsaver in addition to the $1 coupon? I might opt to use the BOGO instead, if I can't use both. It would mean $1 more OOP, but all in all a bigger deal.)

Transaction #2

1 - Arnicare Homeopathic Pain Relief Gel

-$2 coupon

$6.99. Pay with $5.49 ECB from transaction #1 and $1.50 OOP. Earn $8 ECBs.

Transaction #3
2 - Colgate Toothpaste
1 - SoftSoap
3 - Campbell's Soup
1 - Dawn
4 - V05 Shampoo/Shampoo
1 - Folger's Decaf Coffee

- $1 Colgate mfg coupon
- $1.50 IP Colgate mfg coupon (click here)
- $.35 Softsoap Mfg coupon
- $.50 Dawn Mfg coupon
- $.50 Folger's Mfg coupon

$8.62 total. Pay with $8.00 ECB from second transaction and $.62 OOP. Earn $2 ECBs.

You can keep the ECBs for next week or pick up two more cans of soup and two more V05 Shampoo/Conditioner for $0 OOP. Total OOP for these transactions is $6.61. Not bad for everything you get.

Check out other deals for $5 and less at Keeping the Kingdom First $5 CVS Challenge. Look for additional CVS scenarios at Money Saving Mom and CVS Deals at the "Cent"sible Sawyer.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My 100th Post!!

Yeah! I never would have guessed I would get to 100 posts so quickly. I started this blog just over two months ago. It is a lot of fun. I have met some neat people through blogging. I have learned a lot about blogging and finding deals in that time.

I have learned that it pays to keep a blog list. I am constantly coming up with things that I think I would like to post about, and by the time that I get around to posting, I have forgotten what I wanted to post about. I've started to write things down so that I can remember them.

It is fun to participate in events on other websites. I enjoy participating in recipe swaps, I think it is about 3 per week that I currently participate in - Mmm Mondays (which is moving to Wednesdays) over at Mommies with Cents, the recipe swap over at The Grocery Cart Challenge, and the occasional recipe swap at Life As Mom. I have found some really good recipes by participating. I enjoy regular features like Toolin' Up Tuesday at Life as Mom, Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer and Frugal Friday over at Biblical Womanhood. The $5 CVS Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First is a great way to find the small deals at CVS that I might otherwise look over as I'm trying to figure out how to use the $10/$50 or the $5/$30 coupons that I get on my receipt or e-mail. Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie is a great way to get inspiration for meal planning and find recipes to try.

Blogging can be a huge time stealer. Not just the time I put into thinking up and typing up my posts, but the time that I spend reading other blogs. I've learned a lot from reading other blogs. I have learned new tricks and tips through some of the features on the blogs I read. I have learned to be more organized in my couponing and to plan my shopping so as to maximize the deals.

As a result of trying be more organized, I spend a lot more time planning my trips to CVS. I want to post the best scenario I can, so as to help others, and I want to get the best deals I can, because I am excited about the amount of money I am able to save by planning and stockpiling. I find that I spend a lot less OOP than I used to at CVS and now that I have the hang of it, I don't buy things that I don't need/use. Early on, I did occasionally buy things I wouldn't use and wound up giving them away, but this is money I could have used for another deal.

I have signed up for Feed Burner and am fascinated by seeing where the visitors to this blog come from. I remember the first time that someone found my site through search. I couldn't believe it was true, but I typed the phrase into my search bar and there I was, fourth or fifth on the results list. That was pretty cool in my opinion.

In celebration of 100 posts, watch for a coupon giveaway early next week. I need to sort through and make sure I don't have any too close to expiration in the mix and then I will post the giveaway.


Samples and Freebies

Here are the free samples and coupons that I requested this week. Not as many as usual.

Fiber One Cereal and Bar

Always Infinity

Bertolli Sauce

This week, I received two rebates on Pert Plus one from the August Single Check Rebate at Rite Aid and one from the try me free Pert Plus MIR. I also received my Kashi cookie - that was quick! - and my coupon and scent card for Gain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

CVS Deals - 9/26

Tonight, I made a second trip to CVS to take advantage of the Kimberly Clark deal. I had tried to do it last night, but when I went to my CVS, I noticed that they didn't have Pull-Ups mega pack in size 2T-3T, so I came home to call a "bigger" store to see if they carried them. Of course, they didn't.

My plan had been to take advantage of the Gatorade deals as well, but my store only had Fruit Punch left, which I don't care for, so I got a rain check.

In the end, here is what I got:

1 - 40ct Huggies Pull-Ups
1 - 46ct Huggies Natural Fit Diapers
1 - 10oz bag of Brach's candy corn (I had picked this up to confirm that the deal still could be done, but there was a line, so I just did one transaction - so I didn't need it, but I love candy corn.)

- $2 Huggies Mfg coupon
- $1 Huggies Mfg coupon
- $5 $5/30 CVS coupon

Paid with $10 & $11.99 ECBs and $2.71 OOP. Earned $10 ECBs. Since my ECBs decreased by about $12, I actually spent about $15 - which in consideration isn't terrible for 2 mega packs of diapers. It's not phenomenal, but I did improve my ECBs by $3 earlier in the week (see that deal here), so it doesn't hurt as bad to "lose" $12 in ECBs. For the week, it was a net spend of $9 in ECBs.

Check out the deals others are getting over on Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom and CVS deals on CVS Superstars at the "Cent"sible Sawyer.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Did you get your free ice cream?

So, tonight, after story time, I took the kids to Cold Stone Creamery to participate in the 7th Annual World's Largest Ice Cream Social. This was our first visit to Cold Stone Creamery. I was pleasantly surprised to find no line when we arrived at the local store. It struck me as slightly odd, there had been an ad in the Sunday coupon section two weeks ago, it is on their website, they have banners in their store and it is all over blogs. Additionally, one reason I have never been to Cold Stone prior to tonight is that the Cold Stone that I pass most frequently (not the one that I visited tonight, which is the one closest to my home) always had a line out the door - and to me, it couldn't be that good that I would want to wait in that line.

My son had Emily's creation and my daughter and I had Jack's creation. After tasting both, my son concluded that he liked Jack's creation better. I thought that Jack's creation was good. I am a big fan of marshmallow (and I don't care for peanut butter), so for me it was an obvious choice.

With a donation, they did give us a coupon for $1 off on a future visit, so we might have to stop back and try something else. You can go purchase a Make A Wish Star at Cold Stone Creamery through the end of September. The small print on the coupon does indicate that approximately 85% of the donations in September will benefit the Make A Wish foundation. I haven't been able to find anything on their site that indicates this or where the other 15% will go.

By the time we finished our ice cream and were ready to leave, the line was very long - almost to the door. So, maybe we were just lucky to get there when we did.

Free Theater Tickets

You can head over to Free Night of Theater 2008 to find out what shows are being offered in your area and details on how to get two free tickets to local shows. There are participating theaters in over 120 communities nationwide. Be sure to check the locations page, there are some communities that are not participating on the national page.

In my area, the shows are all weeknight shows. You can get two tickets per reservation. If you are looking to bring the family, you might want to contact the website or the theater to find out if you can request tickets in the same area across multiple reservations. Otherwise, it might be that you can go to the show, but you sit separately.

The event is brought to you by Theatre Communications Group. They are the national organization for the not-for-profit American theater. They developed this program to attract new audiences and raise public awareness about live theater. It appears that this is the third year for the program and that it has grown each year.

Walgreens Coupon - 9/26 & 27

Walgreens has a $5/$20 coupon good this weekend only. You can get your coupon here. Remember, to use this Walgreens coupon, your total must meet the $20 after coupons are used.

Mercedes over at Common Sense with Money has ideas on double dipping with the September/October Easy Saver Rebates and coupon books. Check it out here.

Don't Forget - Museum Day 2008

Enjoy Free Museum Admission on Saturday, September 27. You can check out my original post to get more information and participating locations. In my area, there are Children's Museums, Art Museums, Historical Museums, and even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that are participating in the event. Please note that each admission card you print is only good for 2 people. So, if you have a crowd, make sure you print enough admission cards for everyone to get free admission.

A great opportunity to explore a new museum with your family.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Couponizer Giveaway

Mercedes, over at Common Sense with Money, is giving away a Couponizer. To enter and get all the details, you can head over to her site here.

You can enter three times, fill out the form to enter, subscribe to her feed to enter and post about the giveaway and fill out the form with the address for your post.

I've never used one, but they look pretty useful.

Good Luck!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't Forget - Free Ice Cream on Thursday 9/25

I for one can not resist the temptation of free ice cream. Cold Stone Creamery is hosting an ice cream social on Thursday. See my post here for the details.

CVS Deals - 9/21

I headed out to CVS on Sunday to take advantage of some of the deals they had this week, including their two day only deal on Loreal Revitalift.

I found the FlaVorIce on clearance and asked the manager if the ECBs would print. He wasn't sure, but went back and got one to process and see. Not only did it print the ECBs, but instead of the 50% off that they were tagged, they rang up at 75% off - so for $3.74, you get $5 ECBs. I decided it was worth adding and dropped the Gatorade from my transaction, as it was a $5 Filler for $3 ECBs. The FlaVorIce was a $3.74 filler for $5 ECBs, which worked better for me.

My store was out of the Loreal Revitalift Serum, I asked the manager about getting a rain check and he said he could do that or he could just sell me another Loreal that was the same price and ring it as the Revitalift Serum to get the ECBs. I selected a Revitalift Daily Moisturizer (more practical in my opinion).

Here is what I got.

Transaction #1:

3 - 120ct Kleenex
1 - 48 Giant FlaVorIce
1 - 16.9oz Nivea for Men Bodywash

- $2 $2/$10 CVS coupon
- $.50 $.50/3 Kleenex mfg coupon

Uused $2, $3, and $3.99 ECBs from last week. Paid $0.29 OOP, earned $5 and $4.99 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Cottonelle Wipes Pop Up
1 - Cottonelle Wipes Refill
1 - 8ct Viva Regular Roll

-$2 $2/$10 CVS Coupon
-$.50 Viva Mfg Coupon
-$1 Cottonelle Mfg Coupon

Used $5 ECBs from first transaction. Paid $2.22 OOP.

Transaction #3
2 - 12-pk Cottonelle Ultra

-$2 $2/$10 CVS coupon
-$1 Cottonelle Mfg coupon
-$1 Cottonelle Mfg coupon

Used $4.99 ECB from first transaction. Paid $4.38 OOP, earned $10 ECB.

Transaction #4
1 - Loreal Revitalift Daily Moisturizer

-$2 $2/$10 CVS coupon

Used $10. ECB from Transaction #3, adjusted down to $9.99. Paid $0. OOP, earned $11.99 ECBs.

So, all told, I improved my ECB position by $3 - from $8.99 to $11.99. I spent $6.89 OOP.

A couple of things. First, although my flyer indicated Limit 1 on the paper product deal, my receipt doesn't show offer limit reached. Anyone else have this? I might have to repeat this deal, maybe get some of the diapers or other available items. If I go back, I might have to add the candy deal. I found a coupon today at the grocery for $1/2 Hershey Kisses.

Second, how can Cottonelle call the product in their 12 ct Ultra a double roll? There are 200 sheets per roll. This would suggest that a regular roll would have 100 sheets - that sounds really small. Angel soft has 352 on its double roll. Charmin, calls theirs a large roll, with about 150 sheets. I don't know. I think the rolls are shrinking.

Want to see what deals other people have found? Check out CVS Superstars at The "Cent"sible Sawyer and Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom for more great deals.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

At our house, we don't eat breakfast or lunch together during the week, so there is minimal planning that goes into those meals. For us, it all focuses around dinner on the weekdays.

Sunday - Cereal and milk
Pizza (ordered in)

Monday - Family Day, A Day to Eat Dinner with your Children
Cajun Chicken Jambalaya

Leftover Pot Pie



Pork chops/mashed potatoes/corn

Twin Niece's Birthday party
Niece's Birthday party

Weekdays breakfast is at daycare for my daughter, the rest of us eat cold cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal, toast or whatever strikes our fancy. Lunch we pack, usually leftovers for me. My son either packs or buys lunch at school. If he packs, it is generally a lunch meat sandwich or a PB&J with some sides.

We are heading to south western Ohio for the weekend. We have two birthday parties. A first birthday party for my twin nieces (actually my cousin's children) and a second birthday for my one brother's daughter. So, both meals on Saturday will be at a party.

Check out other menu plans for the week at I'm An Organizing Junkie Menu Plan Monday Family Favorites Edition.

Leftover Pot Pie

As part of Menu Plan Monday, Family Favorites, we are supposed to include a link to at least one family favorite recipe. I have chosen Leftover Pot Pie. I am not sure where I originally found this recipe. Likely it was in the Sunday paper or online somewhere. It might be a blend of a couple of recipes. I don't do a great job of sourcing recipes in my recipe book and I frequently will take what sounds good in two or three recipes to make what works for me.

It is a great dish to use up leftovers, but you can also use it with freshly prepared chicken. We typically will make this after Thanksgiving with leftover gravy and vegetables. Then, if we have lots of turkey left, I will freeze some to use later to make pot pie.

This week, I am using leftover chicken from the Chicken Gravy over biscuits we had last week. I froze it after our leftover day. I will use a bag of mixed vegetables and some stock.

Leftover Pot Pie

2 c leftover turkey or other meat chopped
2 c leftover gravy or stock
2 c leftover vegetables, or mixed vegetables
2 - 9" unbaked pie shells
2 tbs cornstarch (if using stock)
1/4 c water (if using stock)

Preheat oven to 350°.

If using stock, bring the stock to a boil. Add cornstarch to the cold water and blend until smooth. Whisk into stock to thicken.

Line a 9" pie pan with shell. Mix turkey and vegetables and add to the pie. Pour gravy or thickened stock over turkey and vegetables. Cover with remaining pie crust. Cut slits in top to vent steam.

Place pot pie on a cookie sheet, bake for 1 hour.

For other recipes, check out Mmm Monday at Mommies with Cents.

To learn how to make your own yogurt and other recipes, check out the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

CVS Scenarios - week of 9/21

I am starting to run low on toilet paper and paper towels, so this week's paper product deal is well timed for me. Here is what I plan to do.

Scenario #1
1 - Loreal Revitalift (deal good Sun/Mon)

-$2 $2/10 CVS Coupon

$9.99 OOP, earn 11.99 ECBs. (Actually, I have $3.99, $3 and $2 ECBs that I will pay with, making it $1 OOP for me.)

Scenario #2:
1 - Nivea for Men Bodywash
3 - boxes Kleenex
5 - Gatorade
2 - 12-ct double rolls Cottonelle
2 - Cottonelle wipes
1 - 8-ct Viva paper towels

- $4 $4/$30 CVS coupon from e-mail (good through Sunday)
- $0.50 $.50/3 Kleenex Mfg Coupon
- $1 Cottonelle Mfg coupon (make pledge here to get coupon)
- $1 Cottonelle Mfg coupon
- $1 Cottonelle Mfg coupon
- $.50 Viva Mfg coupon

$28.46 total. Pay with $11.99 ECB from first transaction, $16.47 OOP, earn $17.99 ECBs.

Of course, if you are just getting started, you might want to work with some smaller scenarios and less out of pocket. Here are 2 Scenarios for the CVS $5 Challenge, hosted by Keeping the Kingdom First.

Scenario #1:
1 - Nivea for Men Bodywash

$4.99 OOP; earn $4.99 ECBs.

Scenario #2:
5 - Gatorade

Total $5, pay with $4.99 ECBs from first transaction and $0.01 OOP. Earn $3 ECBs to use next week.

You can check out other CVS Scenarios at Money Saving Mom and The "Cents"ible Sawyer and more $5 deals at Keeping the Kingdom First $5 CVS Challenge.

Happy Birthday to You - From Disney

Go to a Disney Park on your birthday in 2009 and get Free Admission.

You can register on-line and bring the confirmation e-mail with you to get your free admission. Registration form and details can be found here. If you don't register in advance, you can still take advantage of the offer at the gate, but you will have to fill out forms at the gate, so they recommend saving time by registering in advance.

Already have a season pass or a multi-day ticket that you are planning to use over your birthday. Register anyway. Instead of free admission, you can choose from a few other gifts - a birthday fun card in an amount equal to the price of a 1-day Magic Your Way base ticket for use on merchandise, etc at the park, a special birthday FASTPASS badge for certain attractions on your birthday or a 1-day Magic Your Way base ticket for your use any time until your next birthday.

This offer is not good for children under 3, since they don't require a ticket for admission.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fun Website Find

I have to credit my sister-in-law with helping me find this site as she recently invited us to join. The website is Geni.com and according to the site, "Geni is a private place for your family to build your family tree, preserve your history and share your lives".

The site was recognized as a 50 Best Website by Time in 2008 and Best Free Software by PC Magazine in 2008.

We recently started to build our family tree. You do this by adding your family members to your tree and then inviting them to join the site. You can add family members without inviting them, but then you lose the opportunity for them to build their branch of your tree. You can of course also add deceased family members as well.

As you start to build your family tree, you will want to set up your own profile. Within your profile, you can include information not only on when and where you were born or married, but also different things like where you went to school, where you have worked/your occupation, where you live now and the color of your eyes. You can also populate information about your religion and personality stuff like your favorite quote, movie, sports, book and food.

As you add family members, you can start them off by adding some of their personal information including date of marriage, birth and/or death, so that even if they don't join you still have some basic information for them.

You can add a picture of yourself to your profile, which shows up on your tree view. In addition, you can add pictures and videos of your family and from your special events in an album. These are then available for your family to view.

As your family members start to add their spouses and their spouse's family, those family trees will begin to populate. You will see small tree icons indicating that they also have a tree and it will show how many family members are in their offshoot. Click on these tree icons and you move from your tree to their tree.

There are some alternate views besides the tree layout. You can view your "forest," the trees you are connected to through marriage. You can also see where, on a map, everyone is currently or where they were born. You can also view your tree in a list format, where the relation and immediate family information is available on one page.

You can also add family news and have discussions on-line, which they suggest you could use to coordinate things like family reunions.

You can view a family calendar which is populated with birthday and marriage dates so you can remember to send a greeting on special days. They actually go one step further and allow you to set up e-mail reminders for those special events. Never miss a family birthday again.

There are some new features on the site that allow you to merge family trees, so if you happen to have two parts of your family building their trees, you can merge them and allow the family tree to be intact. This will also allow them to flow through the various offshoots.

Once you have your tree in progress, you can also use one click to print your tree. This would be nice for insertion into baby books or for your child to use for a school project on their family tree.

According to the front page, "Geni is private and secure. Only the people in your family tree can see your tree and profile." This is somewhat misleading, as you move from your tree to the trees you are connected to through marriage, you can also see profile information for the people in those trees. It is just people not in your tree that can not view the profile.

Check it out today and start building your own family tree.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Family Day - A day to eat dinner with your children

Next Monday, September 22nd is Family Day - A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children. In 2001, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University launched Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children. Their goal was to remind parents that eating dinner as a family makes a difference. Based on some research they funded starting in 1996, they found that the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use drugs.

You can go to their website and get their free Family Dinner Kit. It has a menu, recipes, conversation starters and a placemat to color.

You can also make a pledge to become a Family Day STAR:

"I commit to:

S- Spend time with my kids by having dinner together

T- Talk to them about their friends, interests and the dangers of drugs and alcohol

A- Answer their questions and listen to what they say

R- Recognize that I have the power to help keep my kids substance-free!"

I am fortunate that my children are still young enough that they don't yet have a number of activities on weekday nights. As a result, we are typically able to eat dinner together as a family every evening. There are a couple of nights each week, when my husband is in class, that he is unable to join us, but the kids and I still eat as a family. During dinner time, we leave the TV off and talk. I know that it won’t always be this easy, but if I start the tradition now, then hopefully, we will still be able to eat dinner together most of the week as the kids get older.

In honor of Family Day, I think I will make a special meal for the family. I’m not sure what yet, but perhaps one of the kids’ favorite meals. I will print out the placemats from the Family Dinner Kit and the kids can color their placemats while I make dinner. I might even try to print out some of the conversation starters to add a new twist to the conversation.

What will you do to recognize Family Day?

Post your plans to celebrate Family Day on your site with a link back here. Then, come back here and leave a link below.

Or, if you don't have a blog, leave your plans in the comments.

Fall Food

I love the smells, the colors and the sounds of fall.

The fall brings back memories of bonfires, hayrides, and playing in the leaves. I can remember going for walks in the woods with the sounds of the leaves crackling beneath your feet. The air is so crisp, the nights are chilly and the days are just warm enough. I love that I can once again sleep with my windows open. It is a perfect time of year.

Some of my favorite foods are "fall" foods. Fall is when the weather is finally cool enough to start thinking about making roasts, soups and chili. The warm smells of dinner baking filling the house on a blustery football Sunday. I love the sweet taste of Apple Cider, which becomes so plentiful in the fall. Some times it is refreshing cold, but mostly I love it warm, mulled when possible. I love Candy Corn, one of my favorite non-chocolate candies, which of course is on sale in the fall. I will confess though, that not just any Candy Corn will do, it must be Brach's Candy Corn, made with real honey. Without the honey, the texture and flavor just aren't right. Harvest time brings about a number of fruits for baking - I love to bake with apples and pumpkins.

One of my favorite fall recipes is for Pumpkin Sheet Cake. My Grandma made this the first time I had it. The perfect marriage of Pumpkin, lightly seasoned and a smooth Cream Cheese Frosting, make this a hard to resist dessert for me.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake
1 can (16 oz) Pumpkin
2 c sugar
1 c vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

1 pkg (3oz) cream cheese, softened
5 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c confectioner sugar
3 to 4 tsp milk

Chocolate chips (optional)

In a mixing bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar and oil. Add eggs and mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add to the pumpkin mixture and beat until well blended. Pour into a greased 15" x 10" pan. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes. Cool.

For frosting, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add sugar, mixing well. Add milk until frosting reaches desired spreading consistency.

Frost cooled cake. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Be sure to check out other fall favorites at Life as Mom Favorite Fall Food Recipe Swap and other great recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Samples and Freebies

Here are the samples that I have requested this week:

Redken Real Control Comb

Benefiber Stick

Pledge MultiSurface Wipes

Crest Whitening Expressions

Jergens Naturals

Ultra Purex

Gimbal’s Jelly Beans

Here is what I received this week:
I recieved my coupon for a free 2.2# bag of Iams Cat Premium Protection food and my free roll of Scott Extra Soft TP.

CVS - trip #3

When I was in at CVS doing my deals that I had planned for the week, I received a CRT for B3GO American Greetings card. I had two printable coupons from here for BOGO American Greetings card at CVS. I needed a few cards, so I decided to stack my CRT with my Manufacturer coupons.

I picked up 4 cards ($2.99 - $3.99) each. Max value on the coupons was $3.00.


- $3 BOGO
- $3 BOGO
- $2.99 B3GO

$5.34 OOP.

I could have actually done better if I had gone with cheaper cards, but since I was buying mostly for kids, I thought I would splurge on fun sticker cards and characters. I also could have saved more if I had thought to use a $/$ coupon, although I would have needed some filler. I had gotten one by e-mail from CVS that day, but hadn't yet printed it. Still, I am pleased to have gotten 4 cards for about $5.

You can see my first visit to CVS this week here - where I got cold tabs and detergent.

You can see my second visit to CVS this week here - where I got Excedrin and detergent.

You can see other deals at BeCentsAble Centsable Saving Stories.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Free Cat Food

Be one of the first 50,000 people to sign up and recieve a free 3# bag of 9 Lives Daily Essentials Cat Food. Go here to sign up. There is an icon on the middle bottom to get to the sign up sheet.

Orville Redenbacher coupon

Go to the new Orville Redenbacher’s® Gourmet® Popping Corn Girls Night In website to download a coupon for Orville Redenbacher’s® Gourmet® Popping Corn. The website includes hostess tips and access to Evite® online invitations, to host your own Girls Night In party.

Resistant to Change

My five year old is a happy, bubbly, participative kid...once he is comfortable in his surroundings that is. Introduce him to something new though and he is a mopey, clingy, sit on the sidelines kid. I hate to see him miss out on new things, so I knew I had to find a way to get him involved and not have to fight with him at every new activity.

The daycare that he attended, he started at when he was 8 mos old, so he never went through "new" there, other than to change rooms and he always still had the same kids in his class. Typically, the transition period would only last a morning or two. He would be a little extra clingy as I tried to drop him off in his new room, but that would quickly go away. So, initially, although I knew he was a little shy, I didn't worry about it.

So, our first real opportunity to see his reaction to new things was when I was on maternity leave and had the opportunity to take him to storytime at the library. Unlike the other kids, who likely had been to storytime before they were three, he wouldn't let me leave the room and only after several weeks would even sit near the other kids (I was still in the room, but he wasn't clinging anymore). My conclusion after this experience was, he's a little shy, but with time all will be well. The next fall, my husband took him to evening story time and he didn't always let my husband leave, but he was more participative.

That summer, we signed him up for T-ball. The first couple of games, we had to stand on the field with him and run the bases with him. This was frustrating to us. We played t-ball at home all the time. He enjoyed playing pitch and catch. So, why wasn't he willing to participate in T-ball without our immediate presence? We weren't sure what to do, but for one game, we showed up early, before the other kids and started playing on the field. The kids would arrive and join in and he wouldn't mind. When it was time for the game, we were allowed to sit and watch the game. Realizing that this worked, for whatever reason, we continued to show up, even if just, 5 minutes early. I thought, okay, this is getting easier, maybe we won't have a challenge next time.

The following spring, we signed him up for Soccer. The first few games, he didn't want to go out on the field, no matter how much coaxing we did. His coach tried to actively involve him, but if he went on the field, he would stand there and mope or pick his lip. It was really frustrating, again, here was this kid who loved to run and kick the ball around at home, not even moving on the field. We tried to introduce him to the other kids so he would be more comfortable, but he wouldn't talk to them, instead putting on his shy face. We tried to tell him that if he didn't play he would lose X or would have to spend the day in his room. We quickly quit this tactic, you can't threaten a child into participating - it only makes things worse. After a couple of frustrating Saturday mornings, we decided to try the arrive early approach that had worked at T-ball. And you know what, it worked. In fact, if we weren't there early, he became hesitant about participating. So, we made it a habit to arrive as early as we could for the practice/games. We would head out on the field with him and kick the ball and run around like we did at home. Then, as his friends arrived, he would start to play with them and we would head off of the field to our seats on the sideline. He even made friends with one little boy, who he would ask about by name. At the end of the season, we asked, do you want to play soccer again - he answered yes.

That summer, we did T-ball and he was back to his old requests of stand on the field with me - a totally new team and coaches is my guess. Soccer season arrived again a few weeks ago and the first week, he didn't want to play and was mopey, but we had arrived as the practice/game had started and it was rainy. I wasn't expecting it, this time, we still had a teammate from the spring - the little boy that he had made friends with the last season(we didn't keep in touch away from the soccer field). The second week, we arrived early and magically, he played and was excited and even raised his hand the highest when the coach asked who had the most fun today.

I'm not sure of the psychology of it all, but I can tell you that arriving first and playing as a family has helped him to participate in activities, learn new things and make new friends. I'm glad we were persistent and tried different things, because I think it is important for his social, mental and physical development to explore new things. Being sensitive to his need to adjust to a situation and trying to be practical with our time, we do limit things for now to one activity at a time. I suppose that we may eventually combine something like Boy Scouts with a sport, but for now, we keep it one at a time.

Check out what works for others at Works for Me Wednesdays over at Rocks In My Dryer.

Look for other Family Tips at Family Tip Friday over at BeCentsAble.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

CVS Deals - 9/15

So, as I said yesterday, when I went to CVS on Sunday, they were out of the Excedrin, so I had to go back to CVS on Monday. Fortunately for me, I came across another Sunday paper that had a different set of inserts, so I wound up with a coupon for $1 off 2 Purex.

Unfortunately for me, the transaction was a mess. I noticed that they had their freezer pops on clearance, the big 48ct box that had a $5 ECB listed right on the box. I asked the shift manager who was in the area if the box was on clearance and if the ECBs would still print. She scanned it and indicated it was on clearance and was still showing the ECBs. So, I added the box to my transaction, figuring $2.50 after ECBs for 48 of those FlavorIce freezer pops wasn't a bad deal. Of course, when I checked out and paid with ECBs, it didn't print. Since they couldn't give me the ECBs and I didn't really need the freezer pops, I decided to return them. The manager had to come up to return the item, but she couldn't do it with my receipt, because of the ECBs. Finally, she had to do a return without receipt and gave me $ back.

Here is what I got, and what I think it cost me considering cash back and ECBs spent:
2 - 50oz Purex
1 - 20ct Excedrin Tension Headache

-$2 $2/$10 CVS coupon
-$2 Excedrin mfg coupon (see my scenarios for coupon link)
-$1 $1/2 Purex mfg coupon

Paid with $11.99 ECBs and $0.69 OOP, earned $3.99 and $2 ECBs, returned freezer pops, received $7.96 cash...so, I think I came out $1.27 ahead in the deal. I have $6 less ECBs, but I have $7.27 more cash (7.96 - .69). Despite the headache (good thing I got the Excedrin :-)! ), I guess it was a good trip, getting paid to take home 64 loads worth of laundry detergent and medicine.

Check out other deals at CVS Superstars at The "Cents"ible Sawyer and at Money Saving Mom Super Savings Saturday.

You can see my other CVS transaction here.

Frugal Mommy - Ribbies Clippies

Frugal Mommy is giving away two sets of Ribbies Clippies. These are very cute - she has a snowflake gift set and a Christmas gift set to give away. To enter, head here and let her know which Ribbies Clippies are your favorite. I liked the Grace and Dilyn patterns myself.

Free Is Fun: Pringles Stix Giveaway

Steph over at Free Is Fun, is giving away Pringles Stix. We tried these a couple of months ago, when the were the featured Kid's Club Item at our grocery store. We like the sweet ones a little better than the savory ones - the Vanilla is my favorite with the Honey Butter being a close second.

The give away is structured such that she will be giving some away after every 50 entries she receives. The sooner you enter, the better your odds. Head here for your chance to enter.

Monday, September 15, 2008

CVS Deals - 9/14

Unfortunately, I made trip one of two yesterday. I had hoped of course to make only one trip to CVS this week, but my store was out of the Excedrin. So, yet again, best laid plans didn't work out.

Here is what I did get yesterday:

1 - Aleve Cold and Sinus 10ct
2 - 50 oz Purex

- $2 $2/$10 CVS coupon
- $1 Aleve Mfg coupon (see scenarios for link)

Paid with $5.99 ECBs and $1.11 OOP. Earned $3.00 and $2.00 ECBs. So, this transaction "cost" me $2.10 when you consider OOP and ECB decrease. Not too bad for cold tabs and 64 loads of laundry detergent.

I will probably try to hit the CVS by work to complete my deals.

Check out other deals at CVS Superstars at The "Cents"ible Sawyer and at Money Saving Mom Super Savings Saturday.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

At our house, we don't eat breakfast or lunch together during the week, so there is minimal planning that goes into those meals. For us, it all focuses around dinner on the weekdays.

Sunday - Cereal and milk
Enchiladas, Mexican Rice

Chicken gravy over biscuits, vegetable


Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Dinner Out with Mom and Dad

#54 / Burritos

PB&J/Bologna sandwiches
Dinner out to celebrate our birthdays

Weekdays breakfast is at daycare for my daughter, the rest of us eat cold cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal, toast or whatever strikes our fancy. Lunch we pack, usually leftovers for me. My son either packs or buys lunch at school. If he packs, it is generally a lunch meat sandwich or a PB&J with some sides.

My parents are coming to town for Grandparent's Day at school, so we will do dinner out with them one night. September is birthday month and we chose this Saturday to be our dinner out night to celebrate our birthdays. We don't generally exchange gifts, so this is our celebration.

#54 is the meal my husband orders at our Favorite Mexican Restaurant. I make a knock off version of it for him. The rest of us generally do burritos because his meal is a bit spicier than the kids prefer.

Check out other menu plans for the week at I'm An Organizing Junkie Menu Plan Monday.

CVS Scenarios - week of 9/14

There are a couple of good things on sale this week at CVS. I have included two different sets of scenarios below, based on whether you have the Purex coupon from this week's paper.

The first set of scenarios:
Scenario #1:

1 - Excedrin 20ct
- $2 mfg IP coupon Excedrin

$1.99 (plus tax) OOP; earn $3.99 ECB.

Scenario #2:

1 - Alleve Cold and Allergy
1 - Purex

- $1 mfg IP coupon Alleve
-$3.99 ECB from Scenario #1

$5.98 total, pay with $3.99 ECBs and $1.99 OOP (plus tax); earn $4.00 ECBs.

Total OOP $3.98 and you will have $4.00 ECBs to carry over to next week.

The second set of scenarios:
Now, if you live in one of the areas that was lucky enough to get the Purex coupon, you will need to add a second Purex, but you can save $1 on two. We didn't get the coupon here. To keep OOP below $5, you would need to do three transactions and roll ECBs to keep it under $5.

Scenario #1:

1 - Excedrin 20ct
- $2 mfg coupon

$1.99 (plus tax) OOP; earn $3.99 ECB.

Scenario #2:

2 - Purex Detergent
-$1/2 mfg coupon

$4.98 (plus tax) total; use $3.99 ECB and pay $0.99 OOP; earn $2.00 ECBs

Scenario #3:

1 - Alleve Cold and Allergy

- $1 mfg coupon Alleve

$2.99 total (plus tax); pay with $2.00 ECBs and pay $0.99 OOP. Earn $3.00 ECBs.

Total for the three scenarios would be $3.97 and you would have $3 in ECBs for next week.

If you have any ECBs to roll, like I do, OOP will be less.

Check out other $5 deals at the CVS $5 Challenge, hosted by Keeping the Kingdom First. See other scenario suggestions at Money Saving Mom and the "Cent"sible Sawyer.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Target Deals - 9/13

Well, it took me the whole week, but I did get to Target to take advantage of a couple of sales they were having. While out I also stopped at Kohls and took advantage of an additional 20% off and their clearance items.

Sorry no pictures, we got home at nap time some everything was put away before I took a picture.

At Target, I paid $4 for 4 Kashi items (2 cereals, 2 frozen meals) and got a $5 gift card. In addition to the Kashi deal, I got 3 Red Baron frozen pizzas ($3.33 each), 2 bags of Candy Corn (perhaps my favorite candy - although I love Chocolate too - $1.67 each), 1 pair of slippers for DH ($9.99), 10 C batteries ($8.99), 5 pairs of socks for the 22 mos old ($1 each). Our total OOP was $36 for everything, including the Kashi.

At Kohl's, we got 4 character t-shirts for the kids, a 6-pk of socks for my son and a pair of sleeping pants for my son all for $27 (including tax).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Samples and Freebies

Here are the samples that I have requested this week:

Yogi Tea

Kotex Lightdays

Aveeno Positively Ageless

Mary Kay Mascara

John Frieda Luxurious Volume

Fruit Roll-up

Purina One Cat Food (they offer dog food as well)

Huggies Supreme Diaper

Here is what I received this week:
I received my sample of Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and Cascade Complete today. I also got my school supply/Pert Plus/Sure Rebate check this week.

Thanks to Freebies4Mom, Frugonomics and Money Saving Mom for the posts about these samples.

Additional samples I requested.

Always Infinity

Kashi Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Cookie

Black Bean Soup

First, let me say that soup is one of my favorite fall/winter meals. Not only is it able to warm you from the inside out, but the combination of smells and flavors can be an amazing sensory experience.

Second, let me say that I don't eat much in terms of beans, so I have never tasted this soup. My husband is a fan of black bean soup and I make it regularly for him.

I received a request for this recipe when I included Black Bean Soup in my menu plan post on Monday, so here it is.

Black Bean Soup

2 - 15oz cans Black Beans
1/4 c diced red onions
2 tbsp chopped jalapeno slices
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cider or wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder

4 tsp red onion, diced
6 to 8 jalapeno slices
1 tbsp sour cream

Pour canned beans along with the liquid into a medium saucepan. Add the remaining soup ingredients.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, adding water if necessary. Simmer for about an hour until desired thickness.

Serve each bowl with a garnish.

To make this dish even less expensive, you can used dried beans it will just extend your preparation time. I tried to tone down the spices for my children, but my husband thought it was too bland. Next time, I will just make them beans in their own pan. We served with cornbread muffins.

Check out a recipe for cornbread and lots of other stuff at the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap. Check out Mmm Monday at Mommies with Cents for some additional recipes, including a Pumpkin Dessert that sounds perfect for the fall weather.

This recipe also shared at Ultimate Recipe Swap Beans and Lentils.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Walgreens Coupon - 9/12 & 13

You can go here to get the Walgreens $10/$40 coupon that is good tomorrow and Friday.

I myself don't shop much at Walgreens, but I can tell you that your order total has be $40 after all your other coupons in order to use this coupon.

If you were planning to take advantage of all of their Easy Saver Rebates that are free after rebate in September, your total before coupons would be $59.01. (total of the "up to $x.xx" information in the Easy Saver booklet. Actual value likely varies by region) Even if you had no other coupons for these items, you could pay $49.01 after coupon and receive a rebate back for $59.01. For coupon matches, visit Deal Seeking Mom's list of EasySaver Rebates for September.

Do you have a plan on how you can use the coupon? After you leave your link here, please leave a comment.

Purina - $1 Donation to Breast Cancer

Right now, Purina Cat Chow is donating $1 to the Susan G Komen foundation in your name or that of a loved one. All you have to do is take their 5 question quiz about breast cancer (don't worry, you can't get it wrong. They just prompt you to try again). After taking the survey, you can enter your name or that of a loved one.

Go to www.catchow.com/pink/ to participate.

Please share this with others. Together we can make a difference.

The Inconvenience of Convenience Fees

It seems that lately, there are an increasing number of fees assessed on various services.

Recently, we looked into getting some tickets to take our Wiggles loving 22 mos old daughter to see the Wiggles show when they come to town. The tickets were $ 18 – 38 which didn't seem too unreasonable. But, when I looked into what it would cost us, I discovered that there were additional fees that would make the cost a lot more. For the $18 seats, it was going to cost us over $28. Fees increased the price a whopping 64%. A splurge for the "good" seats would have cost us over $48 a ticket. A slightly better "value" with the fees only increasing the cost by 28%.

If you are looking to attend a concert, show or sporting event, chances are, if you book on-line or by phone, you will pay a convenience fee for ordering the tickets. When we looked up the show we wanted to see, there was both a convenience fee for ordering through the ticket company (can you actually even still buy at the box office?) and a building fee. What is a building fee anyway? Isn't the building owner either getting a set price per event or a percentage of the sales? Seems to me, it's just an opportunity to make an extra buck. And, if that wasn't enough - want to print your tickets at home, the recommended approach, or expedite shipping instead of sending them through standard mail? You guessed it, there is an additional fee. They charge an additional $1.75 for you to print your own and up to $25.00 to expedite them through UPS. Even to pick them up at a ticket counter will cost you an additional $1.00.

Want to have your oil changed? They might advertise a great deal at $12.99 or $19.99, but if you read the small print, you will see that they will add a shop fee and an environmental fee to your order. Where we have our oil changed, it is $3 for the oil disposal (environmental fee) and $1.70 for the shop fee (a percentage of your total bill, reportedly to cover cost of rags and other disposable items used while servicing your car). Huh?! Aren’t those both a cost of doing business? These fees are 36% of the advertised price (or 27% of the total price), quite a markup.

Want to fly? Depending on your airline, you will be hit with added fees for everything from selecting a seat in advance, checking your baggage, being provided with a meal, and now even for drinks and snacks. All airlines add airport charges and security fees to the tickets as well.

And, banks – you want to talk about a lot of potentially confusing fees. If you don’t watch the details on your account, there are a number of fees that could surprise you and leave your account short (which of course will likely lead to more fees). Some examples of fees that you hear about: charges for using the ATM at a bank other than yours (charged by your bank and the bank whose ATM you are using), a fee for not maintaining a minimum balance, a fee for having too many transactions, fees for using the teller, a fee for bouncing a check, a fee for transferring money from a connected account to prevent bouncing a check, etc. I remember when you actually used to be able to earn money when you kept your money at the bank. Now, you are lucky to earn a couple percentage points in interest on your account, but if you don’t select the right account for your usage, you could pay more in fees than you potentially earn in interest.

Not a fee, but parking at amusement parks, zoos, etc. You buy a ticket for the park/zoo, but they also charge you to park in their lot. Your choices are limited in most cases. There aren’t often other lots to choose from and unless you have access to public transportation that services the location, your opportunities there are limited. It’s not like they are making money on people parking there to patronize other businesses, so why not include this in the cost of the ticket and offer free parking. If there’s not a per car fee, are they concerned that people will bring multiple cars. You are a captive audience; you have almost no choice but to pay this “fee”.

As a consumer, I understand, these businesses want to keep their prices competitive and make the deals they offer sound the best they can. If they rolled all of the costs of doing business back into their pricing structure, their pricing would not sound as good. By tacking on fees, they get around having to increase their prices.

Now, I know also that they all have to disclose fees to you before you buy, but let’s be honest; it is a lot easier to compare prices than it is to compare fees (or the resulting total cost) when comparing competing service providers. Frequently, the fees are in the fine print or are stated in your estimate or they are shown on your check-out screen. Or, chances are, things you don’t even pay attention too. Psychologically speaking, the lower prices are more appealing, despite the fees, and perhaps because the fees are only considered after the fact.

What fees do you encounter? What fees bother you?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cheap Kashi at Target

I've never tried any of the Kashi products, but have picked them up a number of times. This week, Target has Kashi products 4/$11 and with purchase of 4, you get a $5 gift card. Making them 4/$6 before coupon. I have a $2 and some $1 off on the cereal from Vocal Point. If I use four of my coupons, that would make them 4/$1 after coupons and gift card.

Seems like the perfect opportunity to try the product. Plus, I figure, if it doesn't suit my fancy, it is a good item to donate to the local foodbank. Cereal is normally pretty expensive.

I also understand that if you register at Kashi.com that new registrants are eligible for a $2 off coupon. I haven't yet done this, but might so that I can get 4 items for free (swap a $1 coupon out and a $2 in).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Number Games

I’m a numbers geek. I love playing Sudoku. I work a puzzle every night before bed. I recently started doing the Numbrix puzzles that Marilyn vos Savant includes each week in her column in Parade. You can check out the daily puzzle at this link. They aren't particularly challenging, but I find them entertaining.

I love that there are all of these new puzzles that are number games. I tried to do the Crossword Puzzles in the paper, but I don't have the breadth and depth of trivia knowledge to complete them in a reasonable period of time. With these number games, I can finish the puzzles, which gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

Here is a fun little number game you can play with your calculator. It reminds me of when I was a kid and how we would try to figure out how to enter the numbers to make your calculator read things like hello when turned upside down (0.7734, if you were wondering).

In this case, the answer to each “riddle” can be found by completing the calculation below the riddle and then turning the calculator upside down to read the answer:

What you wear on your feet?
105 x 29

Opposite of Tight?
1667 x 21

Eskimos live in this?
791/ 10,000

Underwater glasses?
5,555,555 – 175,646

What your writing should be?
3,456,543 + 325,394

The Wonder of the Lint Roller

I think that lint rollers are such a great idea. Can you imagine the person who came up with the idea presenting it to his colleagues? I have this great idea, we've been making tape for years, what if we take our tape and roll it backwards. The sticky side will be out and people can use it to pick up lint and other small fibers.

We have multiple lint rollers in our house. Not only are they a handy tool to defuzz my pants after my cat so lovingly rubs up against my legs when I am dressed for work or for gathering up the hairs from my head that seem to collect on my black sweater when I put it on, but they are great for cleaning around the house.

Have you ever used one to clean a lampshade? They are perfect tool for cleaning the lampshade. They gather up the dust, lint, hairs, etc that have accumulated on your lampshade overtime. I can think of no other good way to clean a lampshade.

Other cat induced uses
I think that the cat is the greatest contributor to the need to use a lint roller in my home. There are even some that are marketed as "Pet Hair Rollers"

We have a decorative table in our foyer, one of those pedestal ones with a long tablecloth and a glass top. The cat seems to always walk right by and leave an amazing amount of fur behind (I'm convinced, I could knit a new cat with the fur he leaves behind on everything). No amount of tumbling in the dryer will remove the fur - the solution, roll it with a lint roller. Again, so easy to do and a great way to clean the tablecloth between washings.

Curtains. Have you ever noticed how cats love to spend the day looking out the window watching the world? Well, when they do this, they evidently shed a lot. The curtains on my front windows are full of cat fur. Pulling curtains down from the rod to clean them is not a favorite activity, but with the help of a lint roller, you can keep them fur and lint free between washing.

The sides of furniture. There are wide open walkways in our house, yet the cat finds the path between the chair and table to be his favorite. Again, as he passes through, he is kind enough to leave behind copious amounts of fur. A lint roller does the trick. No need to move the furniture just reach in and roll it to remove all the cat fur.

I even keep a mini lint roller at work, for those cat hairs that manage to catch me after I de-lint.

Do you have other uses for a lint roller? Leave a comment to share your uses.

For other "tools" that make life easier, check out Toolin' Up Tuesday at Life As Mom.

Update: You can also check out Works for Me Wednesday hosted by Rocks In My Dryer for other tips.

Free Ziploc Big Bags

Ziploc has a coupon available for buy one get one on their Big Bags. These bags are available in three sizes: L, XL and XXL. You can get your coupon here.

We have used these bags for many things. One time, we used one to bring along a change of clothes for everyone to the amusement park - and a good thing that turned out to be, when my daughter got sick on the way home. The bag was lying on the floor and protected not only the contents, but most of the floor beneath her car seat. That was definitely some sort of luck that we put that bag where we did.

They really can be a great tool in helping you organize. We've used them to store those soft and/or oversized infant toys that just don't seem to fit right in a box. They report that the XXL bags will hold golf clubs - I've not tried, but it certainly gives you a size perspective. The double seal helps keep the contents clean and dry. The bags also have built in handles to make carrying easier.

Christmas Gifts

When it comes to Christmas shopping, for me, the mantra is shop early, shop often.

Right now, most of the kids that I buy for are young. I do my best to pick up an outfit for each during end of season clearances. This allows me to buy a nice outfit at a reasonable price. Since, they are young, I don’t have to worry yet about whether it will be in style or not next year. (I also use those same sales to stock up for my kids for the next year)

Those end of season clearances apply to toys and other gift type items too. Target recently did a clearance on a number of toy items. You can get them at 50 – 75% off. Same was true at Kohl’s. They marked down a number of toys to 60% off recently. Coupled with the additional % off coupons that Kohl’s has many times a year, this made for some really good deals.

Look for these sales in areas like toys, household goods, small appliances, etc. Every time a manufacturer changes packaging or introduces “next year’s model”, it seems like they clearance out the current item.

Many stores, like JCPenney and Toys ‘R Us will offer coupons throughout the year that are good for $ off $. I have seen them as good as $10 off of $10, but typically they are more like $10 off of $25. Since you typically only have access to one of these coupons per event, you need multiple events to maximize savings. This is an advantage of shopping early, you have more events to participate in.

Start a gift closet. This one I credit to one of my friends. She heads to Bath and Body Works during their big seasonal sales and stocks up. She is able to buy a number of things at a great price and then hangs onto them until she needs a gift. She stocks up on fancy notepaper, candles, art supplies, etc., at a lot of seasonal sales and then uses them to build gifts. You can also buy fancy ornaments at the end of the season (watch for dated ones) and hold them back for next year.

For seasonal sale information, Mercedes over at Common Sense with Money did a great article on Stockpiling Around the Year.

Make your gifts. For our teacher’s gifts each year, I buy a pretty plate and fill it up with all of the yummy baked goods that I have prepared. This works well for neighbors and co-workers if you are in the habit of exchanging gifts.

Black Friday – love it! – haven’t done much since the kids were born, but now that they are getting older, I might have to try it again. You can get some really good deals if you are willing to get out early. And, some stores, have moved the start of their sales to late Thanksgiving night, so you can go out once the festivities have wrapped up and the kids are in bed.

Now, some of this won’t work for specific want lists, but if you can get wish lists early, you are more likely to find items in stock and on sale in the months leading up to the holidays. Right now Wii’s are on shelf, in a couple of months, I imagine they will be sparse again. Plus, if you aren’t rushing around at the last minute, you can make better decisions on what to buy.

See other peoples suggestions at BeCentsAble Tipster Tuesday where the subject for is about the holidays and preparation.

Check out other frugal ideas at Crystal's Blog.

CVS Deals - 9/8

I stopped at CVS on Monday to take advantage of the two day sale on Aussie products. Yet again, my transaction are similar to my scenarios, but I changed them up to better utilize my ECBs.

Additionally, my store was out of the Malt O Meal cereal. Turns out, the regular price is $1 and every time they get them in, they run out of them.

I tried to pick up the Aussie Leave In Conditioner - thinking it was a styling product, but it was not on sale.

In the end, here is what I bought today:

Transaction #1:

2 - 13.5oz Aussie Shampoo/Conditioner
1 - Loreal cleansing towelettes

- $2 $2/$10 CVS coupon
- $2 $2/2 Aussie coupon
- $2 Loreal mfg coupon

Paid with $5 ECBs (reduced down to $4.97) and $0.25 OOP. Earned $2 & $5.99 ECBs.

Transaction #2:

1 - 6oz Chex Mix Cheddar
1 - 4.5oz Chex Mix Turtle
2 - Speedstick Deodorant
2 - 2oz Twix candy bars (never shop before lunch)

- $1.50 2x$.75 Speedstick Mfg coupon
- $2 2x$1 Speedstick CRTs
- $2 2x$1 Chex Mix Mfg coupon

Paid $0.47 OOP.

Not too bad. I gained $2.99 in ECBs, which actually was higher than I had projected in my scenario and my OOP was less. Sometimes it pays to rearrange the scenarios to better match your ECBs.

Check out other success stories at Money Saving Mom's Super Savings Saturday, the "Cent"sible Sawyer's CVS Superstars and BeCentsAble's CentsAble Saving Stories.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Free Ice Cream!!!

I for one can not resist the temptation of free ice cream. On Thursday, September 25th, Cold Stone Creamery is hosting the 7th Annual World's Largest Ice Cream Social from 5 - 8 pm. Guests will be treated to a 3 oz serving of Jack's Creation or Emily's Creation. Donations benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

You can head over to Cold Stone Creamery's site to find a list of participating locations as well as descriptions of the two Creations.

Menu Plan Monday

I have been reading various menu plans for a few weeks. Today, I decided to head over to I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what it is all about.

At our house, we don't eat breakfast or lunch together during the week, so there is minimal planning that goes into those meals. For us, it all focuses around dinner on the weekdays.

Sunday - Cereal and milk
Wendy's (special treat)
Lasagna, bread

leftover Lasagna, bread

Special Event - will be tasting the fare of local restaurants

Black Bean Soup

Homemade pizza

Chicken Parmesan

PB&J/Turkey sandwiches
Dinner out at our favorite local Mexican restaurant

Weekdays breakfast is at daycare for my daughter, the rest of us eat cold cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal, toast or whatever strikes our fancy. Lunch we pack, usually leftovers for me. My son either packs or buys lunch at school. If he packs, it is generally a lunch meat sandwich or a PB&J with some sides.

There seems to be a lot more "out" in our menu plan this week than normal. The annual event where we get to sample from local restaurants is a fun event and a great chance to see neighbors. We have some friends coming over on Saturday and they suggested the Mexican restaurant.

Fun Website Find

To Infoplease

I was forwarded an e-mail today that linked to a website called Information Please. The link was to the section that provides historical Year by Year information. You can see World Events, US Events, Economics, Sports, Entertainment, Science and Death information for a given year. As an example, here is the link for 1980. For the Year by Year information, http://www.infoplease.com/year/xxxx.html is the address, simply substitute the year you want to check out (or go through the link above and just navigate on the site).

Now, I'm not normally one to do much with forwarding e-mails, but I really liked this site. Rather than forward it to just one or two people, I thought, why not share it with others who could benefit from this website. Right now, I'm not researching anything specific that would benefit from the site, but it is just a great collection of interesting historical information, business, current events, and so much more.

Let me start by stating, this website is run by a reputable organization, Pearson Education. They have been around since 1938, first as a Radio Quiz show and then, in 1947, they started an annual almanac, which they continue to publish. The website was started in 1998. According to the website Pearson is "the world’s largest integrated education company. Pearson’s other primary operations include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group."

So, like I was saying, what brought me to the site was a link in an e-mail that encouraged me to see what was going on the year I was born (not 1980, that was just an example), but what kept me there exploring was the wealth of other information on the site.

In addition to the year by year information, they have a section called daily almanac, where you can check out this date in history, today's birthday and get a word of the day. I'm a sucker for word of the day. Today's word is lyceum. When you go to the word of the day, they don't just present a boring definition. Instead, it is presented like a quiz. Today they set up a scenario, utilizing the word and then ask which of the following is the most appropriate CD to take. I am proud to say, I got this one right.

There are links to information about the 2008 Presidential campaign and the Summer Olympics, as well as other current events. Under the Campaign 2008 tab, you can learn about where each person stands on the issues, read speeches and learn about the presidential election, amongst other things.

As a parent, the benefit to children could be great. There are so many unconfirmed sources on the Internet that it is nice to know that there is somewhere to go to get information that is factual. When I was growing up, the big thing was to buy a set of encyclopedias, so you wouldn't have to head to the library. Now, there is the great resource of the Internet, but the potential to stumble upon a site that seems to provide great information that is indeed not complete or is incorrect certainly exists. With the background and long standing history of Information Please, you get a better feeling about the completeness and accuracy of the information provided.

In addition to just being a great learning resource for the children, there is a section called Homework Center, which provides resources on various school subjects including geography, math, science and many more. Also for kids, is a link to a sister site called Fact Monster, which contains kid's reference information, quizzes and games. Just clicking through, it seems like a pretty decent selection of information, facts, etc. and the games are entertaining and educational (some are more entertaining than educational, but still good clean fun).

This is a website that I have already bookmarked and plan to use. Did you check it out? What part do you think you are most inclined to utilize? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Walgreens - 9/7

As I said, when I posted my Walgreens scenarios for the week, I am new to the Walgreens process.

I learned a couple of valuable things today:
• You can combine a manufacturer coupon with a coupon from the Easy Saver catalog. They say they are manufacturer coupons right on them, but I asked my cashier if I could combine them or not. She said yes and both scanned correctly.
• If you process your RR last, your total number of coupons cannot exceed your item count. However, my cashier decided to try it a different way and found that if you scan the RR first and then the manufacturer coupons, you can use one coupon per item plus the RR.
• If an item is $0.99, you cannot use a $1.00 coupon. Now this may vary, but when I asked, the cashier said that they couldn’t reduce the coupon value to $0.99. So, I didn’t get the Chex Mix. I will have to pick that up at CVS, they have it on sale for $1.
• Paying with RR does not reduce the taxable portion of your order.

So, now for the transactions. I did four transactions, as I had planned, but I didn't get all of the same stuff.

Transaction #1

3 - 4 oz Robitussin
1 - .75 oz Visine

- $2 Visine Easy Saver Coupon
- $3 Visine Mfg coupon from All*You (some were saying you couldn't use this, but the text said any Visine, just the picture was Visine A)
- $9 - 3x$3 Robitussin Mfg coupon

$3.85 OOP. There was a lot more tax on this transaction than I had figured. I guess I didn't realize that there was tax on medicine. Earned $10 RR.

Transaction #2

1 - 29ct Pamper's Easy Ups (size 4)
1 - 500mL Crest ProHealth Mouthwash

- $10 RR (had to do it first for it to work)
- $2 Pamper's Mfg coupon
- $.75 Crest Mouthrinse Mfg coupon

$2.14 OOP. Earned $4.50 RR (surprised by this one, was supposed to be $4.49.)

Transaction #3

3 - 4oz Dimetapp

- $4.50 RR
- $6 - 3x$2 Dimetapp Mfg coupon

$2.25 OOP. Earned $10 RR.

Transaction #4

3 - 14oz Swedish Fish
1 - 14oz Sour Patch Kids
1 - 26ct Pamper's Easy Ups (size 5)

- $10 RR
- $2 - 2x$1/2 candy Mfg coupon
- $2 Pamper's Mfg coupon

$2.11 OOP.

According to my receipts, I saved $75.25 today (saved 88%). Not too bad. I spent $10.35 for 14 items including 2 packs of Easy Ups, 6 bottles (24 oz) of cold medicine, eye drops, mouth wash and 4 bags of candy.

Check out other success stories at Money Saving Mom's Super Savings Saturday, the "Cent"sible Sawyer's Drugstore Divas and BeCentsAble's CentsAble Saving Stories.