Friday, October 31, 2008

T.G.I.Friday's Complete Skillet Meals

Tonight we had the opportunity to try one of the new T.G.I.Friday's Complete Skillet Meals. I was contacted by a PR company and was offered a coupon to try the meal for free in exchange for providing a review. I had clipped the $1 coupon that was in the Sunday paper about a month ago and was planning to try the Skillet Meals anyway, I was just waiting on a sale, so I accepted the opportunity.

Surprisingly, I can't find anything about the skillet meals on or From a news release on Frozen Food Age : "T.G.I. Fridays’ Complete Skillet Meals feature a variety of tastes and seasonings inspired by Friday’s signature flavors. The meals feature individual components that be can be prepared in the skillet within 15 minutes. The line has five varieties and each serves two people: Sizzling Steak Fajitas, Sizzling Chicken Fajitas, Creamy Chicken Pasta Carbonara, Firecracker Sesame Chicken, and Cajun-Style Alfredo Chicken & Shrimp."

We chose the Cajun-Style Alfredo Chicken & Shrimp. The description of the meal on the bag says "Ciufetti pasta in a Cajun-style Alfredo sauce, with grilled chicken, shrimp, topped with spicy seasoning".

One of the first things I noticed is that it is "Ready In 15 Minutes". This convenience factor is one thing that I really liked about the meal. Tonight was Trick Or Treat, I knew that I had under an hour after I got home to get dinner on the table and kids in their costume so we could head out for Trick or Treat. The steps to prepare the meal are very easy and everything you need, except 1 TBSP of oil is included in the kit. There were several packets inside the pouch - the sauce, the chicken and shrimp, the pasta and peppers, and the extra Cajun seasoning. I like the separate packets, I felt like it gave the meal a more "fresh made" flavor than a premixed frozen meal would have.

I felt like there was a decent amount of both chicken and shrimp with the meal, but after adding the pasta, the total volume seemed a little light to me. I checked the bag and noticed that it was 2.5 servings in the bag. I hadn't checked that ahead of time and for whatever reason assumed it would be enough for the 4 of us. The press release clearly defines the product as making a meal for two, but I didn't read that until after I made the meal. I think the meal would work well for empty-nesters and Newlyweds, but with a family of four, I had to adjust on the fly. Since the meal was Cajun spiced, I was concerned my youngest might not like it, so I decided to make a small side of elbow pasta. When I served it, I gave my 2 year old some of the chicken and shrimp from the meal with the elbow pasta. I gave my 5 year old some of the elbow pasta topped with the skillet meal (to cut the spiciness). Then I mixed in some elbows to the skillet meal. There was plenty of sauce to cover the small amount of additional pasta that I added, but there wasn't any "dipping" sauce left. I had a serving and my husband had two servings. We had plenty in the end with the additional elbows, so maybe it looked like less than it was.

My son still found the meal to be a little spicy even with the addition of plain pasta, but ate it like a trooper (drinking a full cup of milk to tame the heat). I thought the meal had a decent flavor. I would have liked for there to be more of the red bell peppers to enhance the flavor, but thought the sauce had a nice level of spice. My husband used the added Cajun spice packet to spice it up a little more, not finding the sauce to be hot enough for him without the added spices (he likes his food pretty spicy).

I prepared the meal (except for the addition of some pasta) the way that it was intended. I have a tendency to add my personal touch to meal kits and would likely doctor this one with some additional red peppers or other fresh ingredients to enhance the flavor of the meal.

My conclusion:
I liked the convenience factor of the full meal being in a bag and only taking 15 minutes to cook. I liked the simple to follow directions and that the ingredients were packed in separate packets inside the pouch. I liked the flavor of the meal and that it allowed us to have something different than what I might normally cook. The 2.5 serving portion that is included is small for a family of four, although the addition of a salad, vegetable, and/or bread would make it go further. I could probably make something similar from scratch for less than the $6.99 retail, but I would lose the convenience factor.

On sale, I would likely buy one to keep on hand for a quick meal.

Samples and Freebies

It was another slow week for requests, but my mailbox was busy.

I requested just one item -
Bear Naked (not sure there are any left)

I received a lot of stuff in the mail this week. I received a rebate check of $1.50 for Orajel. I received the following samples:
•“MyFruitRollups” sample with discount code
•Venus Embrace razor from Vocal Point which included coupons to share with friends
•Pledge Multi-Surface Wipe with coupons
•Pull-Ups Big Kid Central Potty Training DVD and coupons
•Jergens Naturals Samples with coupons
•Crest Whitening Expressions samples – unfortunately the pouches were open and created a mess in transit. A coupon was included.
•John Frieda Collection Luxurious Volume Shampoo and Conditioner, with a coupon for a styling product.
•Always Infinity sample with a coupon (2 actually - 1 from WalMart, 1 from Walgreens).

Fruit Cobbler

Yumm! Yesterday, I needed to make a treat to share and I was undecided about what to do. Then, with the blustery day that was dawning, I decided that a berry cobbler would be a perfect treat to share.

It was still warm when I got to work and it smelled delicious. I had to dig in right away. Cobblers are very easy, especially if you have frozen fruit. I used a 4 berry mix - Strawberry, Blueberry, Blackberry and Red Raspberry, but you could use a single berry as well.

6 tbsp butter
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c milk
21 oz bag of frozen fruit (3 - 4 c of fruit)
1 tbsp sugar

Melt butter in your 9x13 baking dish (you can do this in your preheating oven if you like). Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and stir until smooth. Pour batter over the melted butter in your baking dish. Scatter the fruit across the batter. Sprinkle with the 1 tbsp of sugar. Bake at 350 for 55 - 60 minutes - cobbler should be lightly browned and the fruit bubbling.

We had it plain, but you can add whipped cream or ice cream to take it to the next level.

For other recipes to try this week, check out the Harvest Time Recipe Swap at Life As Mom, Mmmm Wednesday at Mommies with Cents and the Recipe Swap at the Grocery Cart Gathering.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Next of Kin Registry System

Lately, I have been hearing more and more about an new process available in Ohio that allows you to register with your driver's license, the next of kin. Ohio is one of the first states to offer it. Any holder of a valid Ohio driver license or identification card can now decide to register up to two people for law enforcement to contact in the event the individual is involved in a crash or emergency and is otherwise unable to communicate with the contact person. Registration can be completed on-line or during the license application/renewal process.

How would law enforcement find your loved ones if you were in an accident? The only information first responders have to identify you is the address on your drivers license. Is someone always home at the address on your drivers license? If not, the police then must begin a time intensive search to find your loved ones.

The Next of Kin Notification Bill was made possible through the support of a woman and her sister who had both lost children in accidents. When the one woman lost her child in an accident, it took the police 7 hours to notify her, not due to a lack of trying. The child lived alone, so when they went to the address on file, there was no one there. Eventually, they found a neighbor with a key to the house, found the child's cell phone, called the last number dialed and that was a co-worker who contacted a supervisor to get the contact information so the police could contact the mother. The idea came to the mother, shortly after the loss of her child. The sisters contacted their State Representative about the idea for the registry and the bill was signed on May 1 and went into effect September 8th.

The police report, that young people can be the hardest to locate the next of kin for contact, because they typically live on their own and because they are just getting established, often have a number of addresses on file in various locations.

If you live in Ohio, head over to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to learn more and register your next of kin information. If you don't live in Ohio, find out if your state offers a similar program and if not, contact your representative.

Playing Board Games to Learn

My daughter seems to be more interested in her brother's toys and games than her own. So, a few weeks ago, I decided it was time that she got to play some of those games - to use them to help her learn. She will be two in November, so she isn't actually old enough according to the manufacturers suggested ages for any of the games that we have. We had gotten the Original Memory Game and Candy Land for my son the Christmas when he was almost 2 1/2, so we had used them before to help our son learn before we could play the game the "right" way.

My daughter's vocabulary is at that point where it is starting to expand. So, I decided that we would start with Memory. Only, instead of turning the cards upside down we placed them all picture side up. I would ask her to find the bananas, the crayons, the watch, etc - starting with the words and pictures that she knew. As we moved through the words and pictures she knew, I would start to pick up the first card and say, can you find the other squirrel (as an example), showing her the picture and allowing her to form the connection between the name and the picture. She has gotten really good at remembering where she saw the card and when I say the next item to look for, she quickly jumps up and finds both cards As we have played, her vocabulary is growing and she knows the name of all the items now. In fact, she has started telling us what she is going to look for.

Even my 5 year old will play with her, which is a nice chance for them to learn to play together and for him to help her learn. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to have a few minutes while they are entertaining each other to make dinner, clean up dinner or whatever task is at hand.

For other tools to help you and your family check out Toolin' Up Tuesday at Life As Mom. Look for other tips and tricks at Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks In My Dryer.

Don't Forget - Free Tacos

Don't forget to head to Taco Bell for your free taco today, between 2 and 6 pm. Details here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Family Always First Night

About a month ago, I wrote about Family Day - A day to eat dinner with your children, now I see that my community is celebrating the 2nd Annual Family Always First Night. I can't find any other references to this, so I have to assume that it is somewhat local, but I think it is a great idea.

The premise is to encourage families, on October 28, to plan to spend time with the family. They suggest activities like playing cards, watching home, movies and cooking dinner as a family. I have seen other ads suggesting, bowling or swimming at the rec center with the family. In cooperation, the schools have agreed to a night of no homework or projects.

For our family, we do a lot of family activities. I have a large extended family and we frequently socialized with the family when I was younger - either as a large group or family to family. With younger kids, it can be harder to play games as a family, only because of their different levels, but we do like to get out and play together. In recent weeks, we have done a corn maze and pumpkin patch visit with my parents, we have gone to an indoor water park to play with my husband's dad and my brother's family, and we have played at the local science museum with family friends. When the weather is nice, we like to go for walks around the neighborhood and play ball in the yard. We also like to head to the park to climb, slide and swing. We don't live near any of our family, so visiting with extended family frequently involves a road trip...which can be it's own special time to bond.

How does your family spend time together? Does your community have a similar day?

Leave a comment or post a link to your blog.


Today, while reading some articles in an e-newsletter I receive, I came across this article from Forbes titled "Sara Lee Launches Internships for Would-Be Returnees". The article talks about "Returnships", which are internships offered to people returning to the workforce after leaving to spend more time with their families. The article indicates that the program is not limited to women, but the general context seems to indicate that they expect a number of moms, who made the choice to stay home with their young children and are now ready to reenter the workforce, to make up the majority of the applicant pool. The opportunities are expected in marketing, accounting, sales, finance and the legal department.

As a working mom, this sounds like a great opportunity. I wasn't in a position to stay home when my children were born. I do have a number of friends who were fortunate enough to be in a position to leave their jobs (or reduce their schedule to part-time) to raise their families. Many of them have said that they would like to return to the workforce full-time when their children are older. A program like this, which based on information in the article, doesn't always guarantee a full-time job, does at least give those wanting to return a chance to polish up their skills and refresh their resume.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

This week started out with an afternoon/evening out as a family with some friends. Later this week we have trick or treat on Friday which will require a quick meal and then, we will eat out for dinner on Saturday while we are out and 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, the focus is dinner.

Out for the football game

Potato Soup/Beer Bread

Macaroni and Cheese

Cheeseburger Pasta


Leftovers/grab what you can


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.

K-mart Super Double Deals - 10/26

I headed to the Super K a town over this morning in what is one of the quickest bargain shopping trips I have taken. The children weren't very helpful in getting out of the door, so we only had about 45 minutes to shop. Not good, especially since I never shop at the Super K. I had visited the Big K in our town for the last sale and they just didn't have quite the selection that I had hoped they might in the "pantry" section. So, even with the time crunch, I was able to get $74 in groceries for only $22, a 70% savings. Not too bad...had I skipped the Pull-Ups, which accounted for almost 1/3 of my out of pocket after coupon, I would have had a better savings amount (would have been 77%). I don't need them yet, but with a $2 coupon, it was hard to pass up getting $4 off.

Here's what I got:
2 - Loreal true match blush
1 - Huggies Pull-up Jumbo
1 - Glade Carpet & Room Odor Eliminator
1 - Trident Chill
1 - Hershey Cocoa Reserve Dark Chocolate
2 - Kashi Go Lean Crunch
1 - Progresso Chicken Broth
1 - Malt O Meal cereal
1 - Healthy Choice Fresh Mixer
1 - Jif
1 - Simply Jif
1 - Starkist Creations
1 - Ore Ida Steam n Mash
1 - Yo Plus yogurt
1 - Eskimo Snacks
1 - Smithfield Pork Chops
2 - Bananas (snacks for the munchkins)
1 - Del Monte Grapefruit Cup

I used $41.47 in coupons with doubling and there was $10.49 savings for the Loreal which was on a BOGO sale. So, I saved $51.96 and spent $22.01 (70% savings).

You can check out other savings at Drugstore Divas at The "Cent"sible Sawyer and Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom.

CVS Scenarios - week of 10/26

There seem to be a variety of deals this week. A number of them are buy $10 or $20 get ECBs type deals. These can be pretty good if you have some coupons to match, of course the OOP is not as low as normally expected, but the cost on the items works out to be pretty good.

CVS $5 Challenge
Transaction #1

1 - Always Infinity

- $2 Always Infinity Mfg coupon

$2.99 OOP, earn $1 ECB.

Transaction #2

1 - Bic Comfort 3

- $2 Bic Mfg Coupon

Total $2.99. Pay with $1 ECB from Transaction #1, $1.99 OOP and earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #3
2 - Arm & Hammer Detergent @ BOGO

- $1 Arm & Hammer Printable
- $1 Arm & Hammer Printable

Total $3.99. Pay with ECBs from Transaction #2, adjust down to $3.99.

You will have spent $4.98 OOP for detergent, razors and feminine care.

Now, if you are not participating in the $5 challenge, then you will want to skip Transaction #3 (you'll get the detergent in a later transaction.)

Alternate Transaction #3
1 - Colgate Kids Toothpaste
1 - Softsoap Body Wash
1 - Men's Speedstick

- $1 Colgate Mfg Coupon
- $1 Softsoap Bodywash Printable
- $.75 Speedstick Mfg Coupon

Total $8.72, pay with $4 ECBs from Transaction #2 and $4.72 OOP, earn $4 ECBs.

Transaction #4
1 - Sudafed PE
2 - Tylenol Cold
1 - CVS Saline

- $1 Sudafed Mfg Coupon
- $1 Tylenol Mfg Coupon
- $1 Tylenol Mfg Coupon

Total $17, pay with $4 ECBs from Transaction #3 and $13 OOP, earn $10 ECBs.

Transaction #5
2 - Arm & Hammer Detergent
2 - Fun Size Candy
5 - Soy Joy Bars
1 - Aussie Shampoo

- $1 Arm & Hammer Printable
- $1 Arm & Hammer Printable
- $3 $3/5 SoyJoy Printable
- $1 $1/2 Mars Printable (coupon printer on sidebar)
- $1 Aussie Mfg Coupon

Total $9.98, pay with $10 ECBs from Transaction #4, adjusted down to 9.98. $0 OOP and earn $4 ECBs.

Now you will have $4 ECBs to carry forward to next week and a bunch of supplies for a total of $22.70 OOP - less if you started this week with ECBs in hand.

You can see other scenrios at Deal Seeking Mom, the "Cent"sible Sawyer and Money Saving Mom. You can participate or see more $5 Scenarios in the $5 CVS Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Corn Trivia

Last weekend, we took the family to a corn maze and in the process, learned some things about corn:

Corn is grown on every continent except Antarctica.

Sweetener produced from one bushel of corn will sweeten more than 400 cans of Coca Cola.

One ear of corn has about 800 kernels. There are about 1300 kernels in one pound.

The kernels on an ear of corn are actually seeds.

Corn is used to produce alcohol fuel.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Samples and Freebies

It was a slow week for requests.

I signed up to try the new chocolates from Haydee Chocolatier. They are a new company and their chocolates will be showing up in stores in November.

I also signed up for a Vaseline Intensive Rescue lotion sample here.

I received in the mail, the Fuel for School rebate and the reusable bag from Nature's Bounty (a little disappointed to discover it was a small bag, guess I didn't read the offer fully, that aside, I will still make good use of it - just not for shopping).

Grilled Chicken Paillard

This is one of those easy to make flavorful chicken dishes. We typically will either serve it with a baked potato or occasionally we will do a mashed potato - like a garlic cheddar.

Grilled Chicken Paillard

2 cloves garlic, crushed
zest and juice of 2 limes
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

salt and pepper

Pound chicken breasts using the flat side of meat mallet. Place in a large resealable plastic bag. Mix the marinade ingredients and add to the bag. Toss to coat the chicken. Chill up to 24 hours, turning periodically. Grill on a hot grill. Cook abut 5 minutes, turn chicken over and continue to cook 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Easy Peasy.

Pounding the chicken breasts is not meant to get them too thin, merely to even them out so that they cook evenly and quickly.

For other meat and potato recipes, check out this week's recipe swap at Life as Mom. For even more recipes, check out Mmmm Wednesday at Mommies with Cents and the weekly recipe swap at The Grocery Cart Challenge.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Omaha Steaks - Oh the Frustration!

So, as many others have done, I participated in the offer to get a free $25 gift card through Geico Privileges and then ordered some steak burgers at Omaha Steaks. During my check out, the system automatically added 12 free steak burgers to my order. I received an order confirmation via e-mail and assumed all was well. Then, a couple of days later, I received an e-mail notifying me that my order was going to be modified to no longer include the free steak burgers.

I called customer service and spoke with Nick. Nick explained that two promotions could not be used together. I indicated that I used a gift card in conjunction with a promo. He also advised that the system had since been corrected so that the free steak burgers would not be applied with another promotion. This sounds to me like they had, and know they had, a system glitch that was allowing the free product to be added to orders.

I feel like I am being penalized retroactively for an error in their system. I just feel this is an example of poor customer service - punishing your customer for your mistake. If the free burgers didn't show up in the first place, I would have been happy and content with my deal, but to have their system give them to me and the to have someone manually remove them, is frustrating. Perhaps I would be a little bit less put out if the offer that I got from Geico Privileges was not called a gift card, but a coupon code. Otherwise, this policy would suggest that if I sent someone a gift card, that they couldn't take advantage of promos on the site. Perhaps I would be a little less put out if instead of just yanking them from every order, they had said they made an error and as a means of meeting us half way, here is a discount on your next order. Perhaps, I would feel better if they had just allowed already placed orders to process and worried about making the orders moving forward correct. I am further frustrated by the fact that in removing the free steak burgers, they delayed my order to next week - a 4 day delay.

This is not the way to win over new customers. I read a number of blogs and have seen a number of angry comments and disappointed comments being posted. Yes, I understand, I still got a good deal on what I got, but the fact is it was their system's error, not something that I did that caused the problem in the first place. So, why is it my responsibility to to shoulder the error and have my confirmed order modified? Why not chalk it up to an error and send an e-mail saying we will honor your order, but understand this was an error and that in the future you will be unable to combine two promotions like this. Or, meet us half way. Offer a discount on a future order in exchange for the removal of the items from everyone's order. The cost would have been less and the impact to thier image much better.

There is so much negative buzz on-line right now and a number of people have indicated they are planning to contact the BBB to file a complaint on Omaha Steaks for this poor customer service they are displaying. This can't be good for keeping the many new customers that tried them out during this promo nor for keeping those of us that have ordered in the past.

Free Tacos !!!

A base was stolen during the World Series, so now, all of America can go to Taco Bell for one free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco between 2pm and 6pm on Tuesday, October 28th. You can check out the promo on MLB's site. You can also get the official terms and conditions for details.

Free Ice Cream!!!

Ben & Jerry's is offering a free scoop of ice cream when you vote. Simply prove you voted by displaying your "I Voted" sticker, bring a picture of yourself at the polling location, do the I voted dance, or just tell them you voted. You can learn more at Ben & Jerry's I Voted page. Promo runs November 4th from 5 - 8 pm. Limit one per voter.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Common Cold

Its that time of the year again, time for colds. Those horrible, sniffly, stuffy, coughing, aching, sore throats days. There proabably isn't anyone that wouldn't prefer to prevent or reduce the duration of a cold. They are just miserable. Unfortunatley, in a social society, there is little that can be done to eliminate the exposure to a common cold, but some common sense approach can at least reduce your likelihood of catching a cold.

As a mom of two younger children, I know that they will both likely pick-up something at school. Additionally, with me working in an office surrounded by other co-workers with children, I know that I will be exposed to a lot of germs.

I do my best to fend off the common cold. I dislike not being able to sleep because I can’t breath or the hacking cough is keeping me awake. So, what’s a person to do? Here’s what works for me: get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, wash my hands regularly, especially after being around someone coughing or sneezing, and avoid touching my face with my hands during the day.

If that doesn’t work and I start to feel those early signs of a cold coming my way, I do my best to fight it off or at least minimize it. I drink lots of juice for the Vitamin C and use Zinc tabs. Frequently, this one-two punch is enough to fight off the symptoms. When it's not, it at least seems to help reduce the duration/intensity of the cold.

If all my best efforts don’t work and I am faced with a cold, I’m not much of a medicine person so I fight my symptoms as best I can without medicine.

I drink lots of hot tea with honey. The honey does an amazing job soothing a sore throat and the hot tea is good for increasing your fluid intake.

I also drink Gatorade, it has the benefit of not only helping me increase my fluid intake, but has the added advantage of the electrolytes that are there to help rehydrate athletes and keeping hydrated is an important part of recovering from a cold or other illness.

I’ve also heard that gargling vinegar water can help a sore throat. I haven’t tried that, but a trick I discovered when I was pregnant and couldn’t take medicine was gargling with Listerine. The alcohol does a decent job of numbing the throat, which is a good thing when your throat is sore. My theory is that the active ingredients in the Listerine help to kill the germs associated with the cold. If I gargle before bed time, I frequently don't have a sore throat anymore when I wake up.

Chicken soup is another staple of the cold season. I’m not sure what it is, but something in chicken broth helps when you have a cold. Plus, the warm broth is just thick enough to soothe and coat the throat while you are eating it.

We have a whole house humidifier, but when I am really congested, a cool mist humidifier in the bedroom can help a lot with helping clear my sinuses so I can sleep.

When it gets bad, I do resort to medicine. I am a mom, I do have to be there for my family and can’t let the cold get the best of me. I try to limit it to nighttime, knowing that at least if I can sleep, my body will have more strength to fight the cold.

To learn more tips and tricks, check out Works For Me Wednesday over at Rocks In My Dryer.

Cheap Ground Steak from Omaha Steak

UPDATE: This is a dead deal according to what I am reading on other blogs.

A while back, we had the opportunity to try some Omaha Steaks. I believe we had fillets. They were delicious, so when I started seeing some deals pop up on other sites about getting cheap Omaha Steaks, I was interested.

The first I saw was here at Common Sense with Money. The deal that Mercedes posted was interesting, but I didn't need the cutlery set, so I didn't rush to sign up. I am glad I did not.

The next day, I came across a deal here at Money Saving Mom. This time, the offer included 12 free 4 oz Ground Steak Burgers with your order. I decided this was worth exploring.

I started out going to Geico Privileges here and creating a username. This generated an e-mail with a link to a $25. gift card. You don't have to have Geico Insurance, you don't have to request a quote or provide any insurance related information...all you do is create a username and password.

Then, I went here and signed up for Share Omaha Steaks. I received an e-mail from this with a link to place an order. This is the link you need to use for the 12 free 4 oz Ground Steak Burgers. If you order through Geico Privileges, it is a different deal.

Once I had both e-mails, I opened the e-mail from Geico and clicked on the link to get the $25 gift card code. Then, I opened the e-mail from Omaha Steaks and clicked on the start shopping link. I selected, under Burgers/Brats/Franks, 8 (5oz) Omaha Steak Burgers. I proceeded to Check out and entered the gift card code (after you enter your bill to/ship to info). Then, I charged $1.98 for 5.5# of Steak Burgers (36 cents/pound).

The confirmation e-mail indicated that I will receive my steak burgers on Friday.

I have known about Omaha Steaks for years and like I said, tried them once. While exploring their website, I learned that beef is grain fed and that they actually even have retail outlets in addition to their mail-order/Internet business. They have an Unconditional Guarantee on their products. In addition to beef, they also sell pork chops, seafood, poultry, lamb, and even appetizers and desserts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CVS Deals - 10/20

On Monday, I headed to CVS after we returned from the waterpark, hoping to take advantage of some of the two day free after ECB deals. Of course, they were out of the pumpkin pails and also out of the GUM toothbrushes. The mananger offered to substitute a twinpack of Colgate toothbrushes and just ring them up as free, so I agreed. He also told me that normally they have cases of pumpkin pails left at the end of the season and that on Sunday they went through all of their supply - cases and cases as he described it.

Anyways, here is what I got.

2 - Halloween Cards (not shown)
2 - 10oz Brach's Candy Corn
2 - 6" Light Sticks
3 - VO5 Shampoo/Conditioners
1 - 32oz Powerade
1 - 20ct Excedrin Migraine

- $0.75 GUM coupon
- $1.00 CVS $1/3 VO5 coupon
- $1.00 CVS Colgate TB coupon
- $3.00 CVS Excederin coupon (reduced down to sale price of $1.99)

Total after coupons: $6.93, paid with ECBs and $0.07 on a Gift Card (from a prescription I filled).

Earned $2.58, $1.69 and $1.98 ECBs.
Net cost, $0.68 (ECBs spent vs ECBs earned).

See other great deals at Super Savings Saturday over at Money Saving Mom. See other CVS deals with CVS Superstars at The "Cent"sible Sawyer.

Sunday, October 19, 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, the focus is dinner.


Out - local restaurant


Chicken and Cheese Pizza

Pizza - Downtown Trick or Treat

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Pork Chops

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.

This week we are heading to an indoor water park for Sunday-Monday, so we will be eating out more than normal on Sunday and Monday. Plus, my husbandÅ› dad will be here through Tuesday.

On Thursday, we are heading downtown to participate in the downtown merchant's trick or treat and costume contest. We will have pizza there for dinner.

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

CVS Scenarios - week of 10/19

There are a lot of free after ECB items, but you have to shop early this week to take advantage of some of them.

Transaction #1
1 - GUM Toothbrush
1 - Powerade

- $0.75 GUM mfg coupon

Total $4.93 OOP. Earn $3.99 and $1.69 ECBs.

Transaction #2

2 - Pumpkin Pail
1 - 10 oz Candy Corn
1 - Funlight
1 - Colgate

- $1.50 Colgate IP here.

Total $5.75. Pay $5.68 ECBs from first transaction and $0.07 OOP, earn $1.98, $1.29, $0.99 and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - 10 oz Candy Corn
1 - Funlight

Total $2.28. Pay with $2.28 ECBs from second transaction, earn $1.29 and $0.99 ECBs.

Total OOP for the three transactions is $5.00. And you will have $6.26 ECBs to roll forward or buy 6.26 in additional product.

For more $5 OOP deals, check out the $5 CVS Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First.

Moving beyond the $5 CVS Challenge, you could also add these transactions:

Transaction #4
2 - Huggies Pull-ups (Jumbo)
1 - Playskool Wipe
1 - Qtip

- $2 CRT for Huggies
- $1 CVS Playskool Wipes coupon
- $2 Huggies Pull-ups Mfg coupon
- $2 Huggies Pull-ups Mfg coupon

$18.26 Total. Pay with 6.26 ECBs from above and $12 OOP, earn $10 ECBs.

Transaction #5
2 - Children's Tylenol
3 - V08 Conditioners

- $2 Tylenol Mfg coupon
- $1 CRT for 3 VO8

Total $10.62. Pay with $10 ECBs and $0.62 OOP. Earn $5 ECBs.

Your total OOP for the day will be $17.62 for a lot of stuff, including 2 jumbo packs of Pull-ups and 2 bottles of Children's Tylenol

You can see other CVS scenarios at the "Cent"sible Sawyer and Deal Seeking Mom.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Samples and Freebies

Free samples week of 10/12

Carefree/Stayfree sample

Redken Real Control

Pur Water Shopping list pad

Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Cake

Chefs spoon

In the mail this week, I received the sample of Bounce Awakenings. Also, last week I won two bloggy giveaways, and I received both this week. You can see what I won here.

Winner! Winner!

I never win anything and yet, somehow, I won two separate Bloggy Giveaways last week.

The first was at Common Sense with Money, where I won the DelMonte Harvest Selections prize pack. See the details here. Thanks Mercedes!

The second was Make Way for Ducklings Scholastic DVD from Thingamababy. See the details here. Thanks AJ!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pumpkin Pudding

At our house, in the fall, we really enjoy eating pumpkin pudding. It's a little like eating a really creamy pumpkin pie without the crust. I believe the recipe is from Libby and was featured in the paper years back. It is so easy to make and enjoy. You can use pumpkin that you bake or a can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling). We used the pie pumpkin that we baked a week ago to make up a batch of this after we made the Pumpkin Streusel Muffins.

Pumpkin Pudding

1 small instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 c milk (you can use evaporated milk for creamier/richer pudding)
1 3/4 c pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix. Chill. Serve.

It really is that easy.

It is very delicious. I understand in fact that Jello has a seasonal Pumpkin Pudding offering. It is probably pretty tasty, but I would have to wonder if it includes all the benefits of pumpkin - beta carotene and other vitamins. My guess is it just pumpkin flavor.

For other Pumpkin recipes, check out the recipe swap at Life as Mom. You can find other great recipes at the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap and at Mmmm Wednesday at Mommies with Cents.

Rite Aid Deals - 10/14

I headed to a different Rite Aid location in search of some items that my store had been out of. I clearly wasn't thinking straight when I made my purchase because I put everything on one receipt and I had two items with manufacturer mail in rebate. Of course, I could go back and have them re-ring it, but that feels like more effort and time than the $2 it would gain me. So, I will only be submitting one MIR - Sucrets or Chapstick Shimmer - I don't suppose there is an advantage of one over the other.

Here is what I got:
22 oz Brach's Candy Corn (I love candy corn, has to be Brach's - it's made with honey which improves the flavor and texture compared to the other brands)
Chapstick True Shimmer Tropical
18 ct Sucrets Herbal Berry
21 ct Bee MD Honey Cough Drops.

I spent $9.93 and my SCR from this purchase is worth 7.47. Then, I will do the MIR for $2 and my effective cost will be $0.46. Not bad for a bag of candy, some Chapstick and cough relief.

You can see my first visit this week to take advantage of the multitude of free after rebate items here.

Check out other savings at the "Cent"sible Sawyer's Drugstore Divas.


A few months ago, a friend had a Pampered Chef party and I decided to purchase the Small Micro-Cooker. It is a pan "customized for microwave cooking! Prepare veggies, melt butter, heat soups and reheat leftovers."

I love it. It is so nice to steam vegetables in. I use barely any water compared to the amount of water that I had to use when I steamed my vegetables on the stove top. In part, this is because I don't worry about the vegetables sticking/burning to the bottom of the pan. With less water, I like to believe that I am pouring away less nutrients when I drain off the water used for steaming. The vegetables have a nice bite to them when they are done, which I like as well. Mushy vegetables are no good.

When you prepare leftovers it is a convenient way to reheat most anything that you would have made in a saucepan - soup, rice, pasta with sauce, etc. You can also use it to heat up canned pasta dishes like Spaghettios.

The design of the cooker includes venting in the lid. This allows you to cover the food, so it won't spatter all over the microwave, but allows the steam to vent during the cooking process (no more lids blowing off the dish you are reheating). Additionally, the vented lid allows an easy one-handed way to drain the water after you are done cooking.

And, it is dishwasher-safe, a definite plus in my book. Since my regular cookware has to be hand-washed, using this dish for preparing my side dish saves me from having to wash one additional pan.

Check out the Tools others are using at Toolin' Up Tuesday over at Life As Mom. You can also find out what works for others over at Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Spy a Pumpkin Giveaway

Cathy at Chief Family Officer is hosting a giveaway for a copy of I Spy a Pumpkin book. At our house, we really enjoy I Spy. We have books and board games featuring the seek and find game. The books are easy to take on the road with you if you have a road trip coming up. You can enter for a chance to win by heading over to her blog.

Baby So Real - Giveaway

Denise at the "Cent"sible Sawyer has a review and giveaway for Baby So Real. You can go to her blog to sign up for your chance to win a Baby So Real doll for the special little girl in your life.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rite Aid Deals 10/12

I made a trip to Rite Aid on Sunday to take advantage of many of the free after rebate deals.

I got the following:

1 8.3 oz Theraflu Warming Cough and Cold
1 18-ct Triaminic Children's Chewable Cough and Cold
1 0.5 oz 4-way Nasal Spray
1 2pk Soft Lips Raspberry
1 .3oz Lyypmoisturizer Honey Berry
2 6ct Throat Cooler
1 1.5oz Simply Saline Baby
1 4oz Childrens Advil Liquid

All the items I bought are part of this week's free after SCR deals. I also used the coupons that I listed here. My OOP was $19.93 and I will submit for a $26.92 SCR. So, after rebate, they will pay me $7 to bring this all home.

Unfortunately, they didn't have the Chapstick Shimmer item in stock. I'll probably check another store this week and see if I can find it.

They did however, finally have in the Shout that I had a raincheck for from August. They only had one Shout, but what were willing to substitute a comparable item for the second Shout. I am going to fax in the information for the SCR, as I was told I could do. We'll see how that works out.

CVS Deals - 10/12

It was a really slow week for me at CVS. I stopped in on Sunday, but I might go back to use my BOGO Covergirl coupon, but today I didn't get much.

5 - 20 oz Sobe Lifewater

-$1 $1/2 Sobe Lifewater, Beauty Booklet
-$1 $1/2 Sobe Lifewater, Beauty Booklet

Paid with $2.29 and $.50 ECBs and $0.36 OOP. Earned $3 ECBs.

Sorry no picture, but it wasn't that exciting and I drank some while we were out.

Check out other CVS deals at the "Cent"sible Sawyer's CVS Superstars.

Sunday, October 12, 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, the focus is dinner.


Sloppy Joes


Creamy Basil Chicken and Pasta (Macaroni Grill kit)

Potato Cheese Soup
Beer Bread

Cheese and Chicken Pizza

#54 / Burritos

Tonight, we took advantage of the warm Indian Summer weather and fired up the grill. We do still grill in the winter, just not as frequently or easily. On Saturday, #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. The unknown in our schedule this week is a possible visit from my parents. If they come, they will be here for dinner on Friday and Saturday, which may influence our menu for one or both of the nights.

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.

Rite Aid - week of 10/12

Rite Aid is featuring a lot of health care items at free after rebate this week, Single Check Rebate. Pair them with some coupons and you have some money makers. Here are the ones that I have noticed.

Note, you can only submit one request for the Single Check Rebate per month. Make sure you study their monthly book before submitting so you don't miss out on a rebate you want in the coming weeks.

Note, not all Rite Aid locations take internet printables, so YMMV.

Throat Coolers $2.99, $2.99 SCR rebate, limit 1.
- sign up for BOGO coupon here.
With the coupon, you get 2 for free after rebate.

Children's Advil $3.99, $3.99 SCR rebate, limit 1.
- $1 coupon on Children's Advil here.
After rebate, this is a $1 money maker.

Theraflu $3.99, $3.99 SCR rebate, limit 1.
- sign up for a $1 coupon on Theraflu here.
After rebate, this is a $1 money maker.

Simply Saline $3.99, $3.99 SCR rebate, limit 1.
- $1 Simply Saline coupon here.
After rebate, this is a $1 money maker.

Triaminic $3.99, $3.99 SCR rebate, limit 1.
- sign up to print a $2 Triaminic coupon here.
After rebate, this is a $2 money maker.

Chapstick True Shimmer $1.99, $1.99 SCR rebate, limit 1.
- Manufacturer MIR free (up to $2.99) in Sunday's coupon insert.
After rebates, this is a $1.99 money maker.

I plan to do the above, plus get 4 way Nasal Spray, LypSyl Moisturizer and Soft Lips Lip Conditioner, all as part of the SCR free after rebate program this week.

You can see other Rite Aid Deals at Money Saving Mom.

CVS Scenarios - week of 10/12

There isn't a whole lot at CVS that excites me this week. I think that I am well stocked on quite a few things, so there isn't much that I need. Also, there aren't any free after ECB deals, although with some coupon matches, you can get pretty close. Here is a scenario for spending about $5 OOP.

Transaction #1

2 - Covergirl Foundations at $5.49

- 5.49 Mfg BOGO coupon
- $1 Covergirl Mfg coupon

$4.49 OOP, earn $3 ECBs.

Transaction #2

5 - Sobe LifeWater at 5/$5

- $2 2x$1/2 Coupon from CVS Beauty Handbook

$3 Total, pay with $3 ECB from Transaction #1. Earn $3 ECBs.

Transaction #3

1 - Colgate Total at $3.49
1 - small filler (example Gold Emblem candy $0.88)

- $1 Colgate Mfg Coupon

$3.37 total, pay with $3 ECBs from Transaction #2 and $0.37 OOP. Earn $2 ECBs.

optional Transaction #4, will put your OOP over $5

2 - NatureMade vitamins BOGO at $4.39 (not sure which varieties, but this is the low end)

- $2 2x$1 NatureMade Mfg coupons

$2.39 total, pay with $2 ECBs from Transaction #3 and $0.39 OOP. Earn $2 ECBs.

You will have $2 ECBs to roll forward to next week. Your OOP was either $4.86 without transaction #4 or $5.25 with transaction #4. Of course, if you had the $1 ECB from last week, you could have used it on the first transaction and cut your OOP to $3.86/$4.25.

For more $5 scenarios, check out the CVS $5 Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First. See other CVS scenarios at Money Saving Mom and CVS deals and scenarios at The "Cent"sible Sawyer.

Update: After visiting my local CVS, there is vitamin C and vitamin D available for $4.99 - Getting two of these would make your OOP $5.85 or $4.85 after using last weeks ECB.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Free (or cheap) Family Fun

Fun and Free

There are so many activities around us that are free (or pretty cheap) for the family. I have posted about many – there was free ice cream (with a donation to a worthy cause), free admission day to many museums, and free theater tickets in many communities.

In our area, there are a number of free events at the Metro Parks. Tonight, we attend the Family Family Outing at the Metro Park. In addition to the trails at the park and the playground, there was a hayride tour of the park, cookies, popcorn and cider, a bonfire on the beach (no marshmallows, which disappointed a certain little boy), and some animals for petting - a goat, a pony, a llama, a sheep, etc. We didn't make the hayride, as there was a wait over an hour long. We did get a golf cart ride back to our car. My son had a good time riding the golf cart, but was still disappointed we didn't make the hayride. We learned about this particular activity in our grocery ad.

Reading your local paper can clue you in to a number of activities in your community that are free or inexpensive.

The library, in addition to being a great resource for books, music and movies that you can borrow for free (as long as you return them on time), also offers a number of free or cheap programs for children, both young and old. We participate in storytime and head over occasionally for popcorn and a movie.

Over the summer, Target sponsored National Night Out, an opportunity to head downtown and see the emergency services equipment and socialize with your neighbors. It even included a free hot dog dinner. I learned about this in my local paper.

During the summer and fall, there are a lot of community festivals that are free to attend – yes, there is a cost for some of the activities, but even those are usually pretty inexpensive. Watch your newspaper in the spring for a list of local fairs and festivals. You can also go on-line to find this information on your local community websites. I know in my community that there are family events for Halloween and Easter, where the downtown merchants pass out candy and plastic eggs, respectively. The Halloween event even includes a costume contest for the different age groups with prizes. The Easter event included a low cost lunch with the Easter Bunny. A number of local restaurants and the grocery store offer breakfast with Santa in December. This is usually a pretty fun event. The first year we went, my son asked Santa for an orange and a green flower. When Santa only delivered the orange from this join request, every telling of what he got included, "but Santa forgot to bring a green flower".

During the summer, when the kids are home from school, a number of local/national movie theaters offer free or cheap movie admissions for child friendly films. Parks are another great place to head with the kids. They are free and allow the kids to expend a lot of extra energy, while they climb, slide and swing. We have a number of parks that double as awesome sledding hills in the winter. Weather a little wet, head out to Chuck E Cheese – if you eat before you go, it can be a relatively inexpensive day out of the house with plenty of entertainment.

Many restaurants offer family night, typically the kids eat free and their are other activities included. One local movie theater offers Family Night at the Movie with a discounted admission for a family.

What type of activities do you and your family do for free or nearly free? Leave a comment or post a link to your blog. Be sure to link back to this post.

Giant Eagle Deals - 10/11

Today, I headed over to Giant Eagle to take advantage of some specials they were having.

I was able to get:
4 boxes Fiber One
1 box Blueberry Muffin Frosted Mini Wheats
1 box of Minute Maid Rice
4 cans of soup (Tomato and Chicken Noodle)
2 bags of fun size candy bars (3 Musketeers and Snickers)
1 Swanson Chicken Stock
1 4-pk of Dole Mandarin Orange cups
2.65 lbs of Bananas

I was pretty pleased with the transaction. My savings was 61% - I got $33.98 in groceries for $13.35. Additionally, I have a "Try Me Free" rebate on the Blueberry Muffin Frosted Mini Wheats, so I should get back $3.49 from the MIR. After rebate, my savings will be 71%.

I don't do my regular shopping at Giant Eagle, typically only stopping in when they have some deals. I find that their shelf price is higher than my regular store and they don't have nearly the customer service that I get at Buehler's, but it is hard to argue with 61% savings.

Some Great Coupons

Today, when I logged on to I discovered that they have a $1 on any 10 oz or larger Kellogg's cereal coupon. This is a great deal. Right now, one of my local stores has 14 oz Kellogg's Frosted Flakes on sale for $1.69, with this coupon, I can get them for $0.69 each! You might want to head over to and get your coupon while they are still there. They also have multiple $1 off one for Frosted Mini Wheats. I bought the Blueberry Muffin ones today using a coupon from All*You. I might print a coupon in case we really like them. $1 off one is a great coupon for cereal.

Additionally, if you click here you can get $1.25 off of Chex Mix bars. These typically go on sale for $2 a box, so with coupon, you could get it for $.75 a box. Don't wait get it now. I found this deal at Common Sense with Money. She also has a couple of other coupon links.

Update 10/12...Sign up here to get $1.50 coupon off of Pampers (by Mail).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Samples and Freebies

I didn't request many freebies or samples this week. I will add to this list if I sign up for more. It seems that a lot I have found across other blogs are ones that I have previous signed up for.

Free Swedish Fish T-shirt

I did get a few things in the mail this week though.

I got three free tea bags and a coupon from Yogi Tea. The flavors sound very interesting: Berry Anti-Oxidant, Mexican Sweet Chili and Green Tea Pomegranate. I will have to have a cup of tea to try them out. I also got a free Quaker Simple Harvest Honey Roasted Nut granola bar and coupon.

Update...Saturday, I recieved my free sample of Tide Total Care that I had requested a couple weeks ago.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Apple Crisp

This is a family favorite at my house. It is so easy to make and smells so awesome when it bakes. I'll put it in the oven as we sit down to dinner and then after we have eaten and cleaned up, it is usually ready for an after-dinner treat.

Apple Crisp

8 apples
Dice or slice apples, place in cooking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar to taste.

1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
6T butter/margarine

Crumble over the top of the apples.

Bake 1 hour at 350.

My original recipe calls for 1/2 c of water with the apples, but I have never added it. I suppose if you have "dry" apples you might need this, but I find it to be plenty moist without it.

For other Apple recipes, including The Apple Crown, check out the Apple Recipe Swap at Life As Mom. Also, check out Mommies with Cents Mmmm Wednesdays for Pumpkin Pie Cake and other recipes. There are even more recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Silicone Cupcake Baking Cups

A while back I had to throw away my standard 12-cup metal muffin pan. Evidently, it had baked too many muffins and cupcakes. The last time I used it, I had two pans in my oven, one 6-cup metal muffin pan and the 12-cup metal muffin pan. Both were full with cupcakes in paper liners. When they were only about 1/2 way through the baking time, I started to notice a lot of smoke in the house. I opened some windows and turned on the exhaust fan hoping to clear the smoke. Of course, the kids were in bed asleep and no amount of effort on my part could keep the smoke detectors from going off. You know, it is not easy to explain to a 5-year old that when the smoke detectors go off, you are supposed to get out because the alarm means there could be a fire and then turn around and tell him, don't worry, we don't need to go outside, it is just what Mommy is baking.

Because my assumption was that it was something on the bottom of the oven just smoking off, I allowed them to finish baking, watching the time pass hoping that the smoke detectors wouldn't go off again. It wasn't until the cupcakes were out of the oven and I removed them from the pans that I noticed that the bottoms on the cupcakes from the 12-cup pan were all black - the bottom 1/4" was burnt. That was the source of the smoke, nothing in the bottom of the oven.

Of course, I was baking them for school treats for my son, so I found myself driving to WalMart at 9:30pm to buy another cake mix and a new pan. I used the pan once and washed it and it rusted - I promptly returned it, a pan that rusts after one use is not a good pan. This frustrated me, so I didn't buy another one because I knew that I had a stoneware muffin pan that I could use, although it only holds 12 muffins/cupcakes, so if I'm making a standard cake mix, it meant that I would have to bake twice to bake all 24 cupcakes. A while back, I also had bought some silicone cupcake baking cups, but had used them only limitedly since I couldn't send them off to school because I couldn't be sure I would get them back.

This past Sunday, I decided to make some Pumpkin Streusel Muffins as part of a fall feast. I decided to use my silicone cupcake baking cups in my stoneware because I only had a couple of paper liners. As I filled the cupcakes, I quickly realized that it would make more than 12 muffins. I pulled a couple of the silicone cupcake baking cups out of the pan and set them on top of the pan between the cups in the pan, filling the vacated locations with paper liners. By doing this, I was able to bake 16 cupcakes all at the same time with one pan.

This was great to me. I had always used the cups in a muffin pan, never considering using them as the directions suggest they can be used on a regular baking sheet not just within the muffin pan.

After baking them this way and having no issues, I decided that I must get a second set of the silicone cupcake baking cups. They aren't cheap, about $10 for a pack of 12 cups, but I think they are worth it (plus, if I use one of those coupons from the home stores, I should be able to save a couple of bucks on them). Having a second set (24 total) would allow me to make all 24 cupcakes from a standard cake mix at once by placing the baking cups on a sheet pan and not even use a muffin pan. It will save me money by only having to run the oven for one bake cycle, rather than the two cycles to make 12 at a time that I had been doing. It will save me money on the paper liners for the cupcakes or muffins that I make for us to eat or take to a friend's for dinner. Additionally, by using the reusable baking cups, we are also being more environmentally friendly because we aren't creating the extra paper waste. Of course, I still have the stoneware muffin pan and can use that when I need to make cupcakes in paper liner for taking to school. One thing that I have learned with time is that spraying the baking cups with a little bit of no stick spray makes the muffins/cupcakes easier to remove from the cup, but the added cost of a little spray isn't a big deal to me.

For other tools that make life easier, check out Toolin' Up Tuesday at Life as Mom. You can also check out Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer for other tried and true tricks and tips.

CVS Deals - 10/6

When I went to CVS on Sunday, I forgot to get the Vitamin Water deal. So, I headed back on Monday.

Monday I got the following:

Transaction #1:
1 - Toddler "Crocs"
1 - Vitamin Water

Paid with $2 & $2 in ECBs and $0.30 OOP. Earned $2.29 ECBs. With this receipt I got a coupon for $1 on Lady Speedstick. So, I went shopping again.

Transaction #2:
1 - Youth "Crocs" (I decided I couldn't just get them for my daughter)
1 - Lady Speedstick

-$1 Lady Speedstick CRT

Paid with $2.99 in ECBs adjusted down to $2.98. Earned $1 ECB.

My total OOP was $.30 for this trip. I spent $6.99 in ECBs and got back $3.29, so I guess when you factor in the $3.70 ECB decline, cost today was $4. for everything. Not too bad when you consider the cost of real Crocs.

Check out my other trip this week here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

CVS Deals - 10/5

I headed out to CVS on Sunday evening to take advantage of the sales for this week. I did pretty good, I even improved my overall ECB position. I did fail to use my Summer quarter ECBs to save some out of pocket and I did fail to pick up the Vitamin Water, but I can always grab that later this week. Here is what I got:

Transaction #1
1 - Always Infinity 18 ct
1 - Colgate Max Fresh 6 oz
1 - Benefiber Chewable 36 ct

-$1 Colgate Max Fresh Mfg Coupon
-$1 Colgate coupon from CVS Beauty Handbook
-$2 Benefiber Chewable Mfg Coupon
-$3 $3/$15 CVS coupon

Paid with $5.79 and $2 ECB. Paid $0.45 OOP, earned $4.98 and $2 ECB.

Transaction #2
1 - Benefiber Powder, 90 svg

-$2 Benefiber Mfg Coupon
-$3 $3/$15 CVS coupon

Paid with $10 ECB. Paid $1.72 OOP, earned $10 ECB. This is where I could have used my $.50 ECB from summer, all my other ECBs were too big.

Transaction #3
1 - Arm & Hammer Essential
1 - Lady Speedstick
1 - Speedstick
1 - Always Infinity
1 - Colgate Max Fresh
1 - CVS Vitamin D, bonus pack

-$1 Arm & Hammer Mfg IP coupon
-$.75 Lady Speedstick Mfg coupon
-$.75 Speedstick Mfg coupon
-$1 Colgate Max Fresh Mfg coupon
-$1 Colgate coupon from CVS Beauty Handbook

Paid with $10 ECBs, adjusted down to $9.94. Paid $.30 OOP and earned $2, $4.98, $2 and $2.99 ECBs.

For the day, my OOP was $2.47 and I improved my ECB position from by $1.66 from $17.79 to $19.45. In addition, I will be sending in the rebate for the Arm & Hammer Essentials in the amount of $2.50. This makes the day even better, cancelling out the OOP.

Of course, I will have to head back to CVS to get the Vitamin Water that is free after ECBs this week. Maybe I will find another deal to take advantage of.

For more CVS deals check out CVS superstars at The "Cent"sible Sawyer. For more savings and deals, check out Super Saving Saturday at Money Saving Mom.

Sunday, October 5, 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.

Tonight, we had a wonderful fall feast. I had bought one of those Jennie-O Turkey & Gravy in roasting pans a few weeks ago when there was a deal at the store. We had never had one before. I would say, it wasn't too bad. It smelled wonderful as it was baking and since it comes in its own pan, there are no dishes to do. They describe it as a Turkey Roast; it seemed a bit like a "turkey loaf" to me, but had a good flavor and was moist. As sides, we had corn and Kahlua Candied Sweet Potatoes. This was a recipe that we found a few years ago, that offers a nice alternative to the regular candied sweet potatoes and the mashed sweet potato casserole that we normally make. We also bought a pie pumpkin and baked it today. Then, we used the pumpkin to make the Pumpkin Streusel Muffins that were featured in a guest post on Money Saving Mom a few weeks ago. I'm still waiting to make the pumpkin seed recipe that was in the same post. It was a wonderful fall meal. We even had Apple Cider to go with it. I love fall food!

Turkey/Kahlua Candied Sweet Potatoes/Corn/Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

Ravioli Lasagna


Egg Flower Soup/Fried Rice


Pork Tenderloins


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. I didn't realize it when I was planning out my menu, but this week is Thanksgiving Edition (Canada has Thanksgiving Day next week) so my Sunday night meal fit very nicely.

CVS Scenarios - week of 10/5

Yeah! There are more ECB offers in the CVS ad this week. I was a little worried that we in Ohio would have a small ad again this week. There are a couple of free after ECB deals this week. You can check out the October monthly deals at Deal Seeking Mom or pick up the booklet when you are in store.

Scenario #1
Transaction #1:

1- Always Infinity

Pay $4.98 OOP, earn $4.98 ECBs.

Transaction #2:

1 - Colgate Max Fresh
1 - Bic Soleil

-$1 Colgate Max Fresh Mfg coupon
-$1 Colgate Max Fresh CVS Beauty catalog coupon
-$2 Bic Soleil Mfg IP coupon

$4.98 total. Pay with ECB from transaction #1, $0 OOP, earn $2 & $4 ECBs.

Transaction #3:
1 - Arm & Hammer Essentials
1 - Glaceau Vitamin Water
1 - Speedstick
1 - Lady Speedstick

-$1 Arm & Hammer Essentials Mfg IP coupon
-$.75 Speedstick Mfg coupon
-$.75 Lady Speedstick Mfg coupon

$6.27 total. Pay with $2 and $4 ECB from Transaction #2, $0.27 OOP, earn $2.29 & $2 ECBs. Also, mail in the Try Me Free rebate from today's insert for the Arm & Hammer Essentials to get back $2.50 by mail.

Transaction #4:
1 - Pantene Expressions Shampoo
1 - Twix Candy Bar (filler)

-$2 Pantene Expressions Mfg coupon

$4.49 total. Pay with $2 & $2.29 ECB from Transaction #3, $0.20 OOP, earn $1 ECB.

Total OOP for all 4 transactions is $5.45 and after you get back the $2.50 mail in rebate, you will have only spent $2.95 OOP. You have $1 ECB that you can spend on two candy bars (2/$1 this week) or hold it to start you off next week.

I will probably combine Transaction #1 & #2 to use my $10 ECB from two weeks ago and make my total OOP $0.47 and leaving me with $4.98 and $1 ECB to start me off next week.

Scenario #2 (The $5 CVS Challenge)
Transaction #1:

1- Always Infinity

Pay $4.98 OOP, earn $4.98 ECBs.

Transaction #2:

1 - Colgate Max Fresh
1 - Bic Soleil

-$1 Colgate Max Fresh Mfg coupon
-$1 Colgate Max Fresh CVS Beauty catalog coupon
-$2 Bic Soleil Mfg IP coupon

$4.98 total. Pay with ECB from transaction #1, $0 OOP, earn $2 & $4 ECBs.

Transaction #3:
1 - Arm & Hammer Essentials
1 - Speedstick
1 - Lady Speedstick

-$1 Arm & Hammer Essentials MfgIP coupon
-$.75 Speedstick Mfg coupon
-$.75 Lady Speedstick Mfg coupon

$3.98 total. Pay with $4 ECB from transaction #2 adjusted down to $3.98, earn $2 ECB. Also, mail in the Try Me Free rebate from today's insert for the Arm & Hammer Essentials to get back $2.50 by mail.

Transaction #4:
1 - Pantene Expressions Shampoo
1 - Twix Bar

-$2 Pantene Expressions Mfg coupon

$3.99 total. Pay with $2 ECB from Transaction #2 and $2 ECB from Transaction #3, adjusted down to $3.99, earn $1 ECB.

Total OOP: $4.98. Once you send in the Try Me Free Rebate, the net cost will be $2.48. You will have $1 ECB to use next week.

For other $5 scenarios, check out the $5 CVS Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First. Check out other scenarios at Money Saving Mom.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fun Website Find

Everywhere we go, there seem to be stickers for the kids: at the dentist, at the doctor, at the library, etc. Based on the paper backing, the source for a lot of these stickers is Smile Makers. For some reason, one of the kids left the back of the sticker sitting on the counter and I noticed the website was included, so I of course went to check it out and see what they offered.

Did you know that Smile Makers is a division of Staples? I didn't. They have been in business for over 30 years. Their mission, according to their website is "to be the absolute best supplier of stickers, toys, novelties, pencils and practice promotion items". Their customers, as you might expect from their tabs, are primarily in the healthcare, financial, religious and education areas.

They seem to have a category and item to meet everyone's need. Teacher, Medical, Dental, Financial, Church, Restaurant, Eye Care and More Fun Stuff are the tabs that run across the top. Along the side, are the categories of items they sell. Stickers, Toys, Super Balls, Jewelry, Pencils, Seasonal, Treasure Chests, Posters, Crafts, Birthday, Candy and Gum. They even include Best Sellers, New Items and Web Specials.

As an example, there is the Church Candy category which includes Bible Verse Fortune Cookies, Sours Scripture Candy, and Religious Bubble Gum Coins, amongst others. There are character pencils and occasion pencils, there are general stickers and character and themed stickers, there is play jewelry and more. They even offer gift bags to give away the treats at a birthday party. One birthday party thing that caught my eye was a princess tiara and jewelry set, perfect for a princess-themed party. They offer bulk crayons and the boxes of 4 that you see at so many restaurants - you can even get a custom box.

You can go to their website to order or request a catalog. In many ways the type of stuff they offer reminds me a little bit of Oriental Trading Company, only maybe not quite as diverse and maybe a bit more bulk oriented, since they are focused on "practice promotion items". I can't really tell how the quality of the toy type items would compare, but have been less than pleased with Oriental Trading Company in the past (although, if you consider what it is and what it costs, I guess the quality of the toy items is probably what I should expect at Oriental Trading Company).

There is no minimum order required, but the shipping is $7.95 for orders up to $39.99 and then increments up from there. As a parent, I think I would be most likely to purchase for a kid's party. I like the tiara and jewelry set, on unit comes with 24 sets for around $18, so perhaps if we have a kid's party for my daughter's birthday one year, this would be something to get. Some of the items they offer would be great for a non-candy item to pass out at Halloween as well. We are already over running with stickers, but if we weren't and wanted some reward type stickers, they would be a great resource for this as well.

Have you ever ordered through Smile Makers?

Friday, October 3, 2008

K-mart Deals 10/3 - Super Double Coupons

The family made a trip to K-mart tonight to take advantage of the Super Double Coupons promotion that they are running this weekend. We did okay. It was a regular K-mart, so the grocery items were more limited in selection. I probably would have saved more/spent more if we had made it to a Super K.

We bought $6 worth of stuff that we didn't have coupons for, so that skewed the numbers slightly, but here is a summary of what we got:

Goodlife Cat Food
Cascade Complete Dishwasher Gel
Glade Room and Carpet Freshener
Fiber One bars
5 boxes of General Mills Cereals
2 Easy Macs single cups
Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste
2 Colgate 360 Toothbrushes
Hot Fries
2 Hormel Compleats

The total before coupons was $52.09 for 19 items. After coupons, it was $21.09. I saved 60% with coupons. If you exclude the last three line items that we got on sale, but not with coupon, it would have been 67% savings.

I had a $5/$50 coupon, but it was only good at Super K locations. That would have been great if we could have used it.

The cereal represented just over 40% of the OOP, but we needed some cereal.

True to K-mart, there was only one register open, but the customer service desk was helping check out people.

I will see what the coupons and ad look like on Sunday and maybe make a trip back.

Check out other K-mart deals at Mommies with Cents.

Coupon Giveaway winners!

General coupon giveaway:

Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2008-10-03 22:15:20 UTC

Congratulations Rebecca! You are the winner of the general coupon giveaway.

Pet-centric Coupon giveaway

Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2008-10-03 22:16:02 UTC

The winners are Storm and Leah! Storm gets the cat-centric; Leah the dog-centric.

Leah, please send me an e-mail with your contact information so that I can send you the coupons. The other winners, I have contacted by e-mail.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks for participating.

Samples and Freebies

This week I signed up for the following offers:

Champagne cork

Shick Intuition Razor

ob tampons and case

Ziploc Fall Giftpack (only first 20,000)

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Firm Hold Gel

This week in my mailbox, I received my free pack of Stride Gum and a Benefiber sample from WalMart.

Egg Flower Soup

One of my favorite foods to order out is Chinese. Part of what I really enjoy about Chinese food is the soup. One of the things that we do to save money is to make restaurant foods at home, it was only appropriate that I find a recipe for Egg Drop soup, my favorite soup to order from Chinese carryout. This recipe is different than what I get from my local carryout place, it has a lighter feel (less oily if you will) and it adds peas.

Egg Flower Soup

4 c chicken stock
6 slices of fresh ginger
Salt & Pepper
1/4 c thinly sliced green onions
1/2 c fresh or frozen peas
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Add ginger to stock and bring to a boil. When boiling, discard the ginger and season to taste. Add the green onions and the peas.

Pour eggs over surface of soup, allow to set for a few seconds, then use long chop sticks to stir briskly, creating tender egg flowers.

Serve immediately.

In a pinch, you could use ground ginger, it will just be a different flavor since instead of infusing you will be leaving the ginger in. I recommend white pepper instead of black pepper. My experience at Chinese restaurants is the that the pepper on the table is not generally black pepper.

For other soup recipes for these blustery fall days, check out the Recipe Swap: Soup's On! at Life As Mom. For more recipes, check out Mmmm Wednesday at Mommies with Cents and the weekly recipe swap at the Grocery Cart Challenge.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

CVS Deals - 9/30

I had a pretty good, albeit small, trip to CVS today. We only had three ECB deals in our circular this week and I took advantage of two of the deals. I might head back later this week to take advantage of the Coke deal, but it wasn't a priority today. I wanted to make sure I used my $1 CRT for Total and my $1 Covergirl coupons that expired today. It turned out that it was a good thing I didn't go earlier this week, because yesterday while at the dentist I got coupons for $2 off Colgate toothpaste, making the Colgate deal a $2 profit for me.

Here's what I got:

2 - Covergirl Clean Makeup
2 - 6.0 oz Colgate Total

- $1 Colgate CRT
- $4 (2x$2) Colgate Mfg coupon
- $5.49 BOGO Covergirl Mfg coupon
- $1 Covergirl Mfg coupon
- $3 $3/$15

Paid $1.90 OOP, earned $5.79 and $2 ECBs. The Covergirl Makeup is printing 5.79 instead of the $5.49 reflected in ad and I was able to use both the $1 off coupon and the BOGO coupon. I made a profit in the form of ECBs of $5.89 today. Not too shabby.

For other great CVS deals, check out CVS Superstars at The "Cent"sible Sawyer. For other great deals, check out Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom.

Super Doubles at Kmart

It looks like it has come to my area. In my mailbox yesterday, amidst my other fliers, was one for Kmart advertising their Super Double coupons. I still need to confirm if this is all stores in my area or only at the Super Kmart.

The way I understand it, your coupons, up to $2 will be doubled (that would be $4 off!!), you can use up to 4 of the same coupon, 1 coupon per item and 75 coupons per day. I'm not currently a Kmart shopper, but this deal will pull me into the store to help me maximize my $$. Internet coupons (and, duh! copies of manufacturers coupons) are not accepted.

The offer runs from October 1 - October 5, so you can shop this week's ad and next week's ad as well.

You can see some free and nearly free deals after coupon over at this post at Common Sense with Money.