Saturday, January 31, 2009

CVS Deals - 1/31

This morning in doing some cleaning up and checking to see if I could submit the P&G offer for $120 in savings coupons when you spend $50, I found a CVS receipt with some unused ECBs attached. They expired on Thursday! I called my local store to find out if they would honor them or if I needed to contact corporate - I was told they could honor them! Yeah! So, I headed back out to CVS for another adventure.

I finally found the Throat Coolers in store. It was rather by coincidence that we even stopped in the aisle. I wasn't looking for them, but was glad to finally find them.

Here's what I got:

Transaction #1
1 - CVS 30ct Cough Drops
2 - Throat Coolers
1 - Venus Embrace

-$1.19 Free CVS cough drops CRT
-$4.99 BOGO Throat Coolers
-$4 Venus Embrace mfg coupon

Paid with $9 ECBs and $.59 OOP. Earned $9.98 and $4 ECBs.

Transaction #2
2 - Throat Coolers
5 - 12pk Mountain Dew
1 - 2L Mountain Dew
1 - Stacy's Pita chips
1 - Arizona Ice Tea

-$4.99 BOGO Throat Coolers
-$1.50 Stacy's mfg coupon

Paid with $1, $2, $10, $10 ECBs and $2.79 OOP. Earned $10 and $9.98 ECBs.

Total OOP for the day was $3.38. I thought I had $29 in ECBs to start the day, but when I found the other $3, I had $32. Then, I ended the day at $33.96 ECBs. So, net net, today's trip cost $1.42.

To see how others fared, check out CVS Superstars at The "Cent"sible Sawyer and Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom.

Blogging...the first six months, part 4

As I wrap up this series on some discoveries I have made over the past six months of blogging, I thought I would address a couple of things - time and measurement.

First, since I started blogging six months ago, I am amazed to discover how much time it all takes.

There is the obvious time commitment of posting regularly. There is time involved with finding things to post about and then time to actually put the words together into an article.

There is also the time spent reading other blogs. Before I started blogging, there were a couple of blogs that I would stop by at every few days. Now, I stop by closer to twenty blogs and I seem to do it multiple times a day. Some of this is through Google Reader, but others I just have in my Favorites and go directly to (some I get in Google Reader, but still go directly to). Reading other blogs has helped me find additional deals and freebies that I sign up for and share, that I might not have otherwise known about.

There is also the time it takes to plan a shopping trip. It takes time to plan my menu and grocery trip. Figuring out if I should just go to one store or more. It also takes me a while to plan my CVS trips. I review the ad. I find the deals that are of most interest to me. I write them down. I organize them to match the coupons and ECBs I have, in hopes of minimizing my OOP. This frequently involves me checking out the coupon matches that others have listed on their sites - this helps me know what coupon I am looking for in my organizer and helps me find Internet printable coupons. Then, because I like the challenge, I generally will put together a $5 set of scenarios to participate in the $5 CVS Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First. This doesn't take as much time since I have already found the coupons that I will use for each of the deals.

Then there is Twitter. I don't always say a lot, but I spend a good amount of time following others on Twitter. It is a little addicting and since I don't have any sort of IM (and never have), it is a lot like what I would imagine IM-ing to be, only more so, since the conversations are more open (like a chat room, maybe).

The other thing that I spend some time on is measuring how I am doing. I love FeedBurner and Google Analytics. It amazes me the amount of information that is available through these two services. I like seeing what brings people to my blog - whether it be another blog or a search. It is fun to look at the statistics on the number of visitors and page views. I can remember how exciting it was to have my first day where I had 100 hits, and then 500. I enjoy looking at the trends and seeing the patterns of visits to my blog - Thursdays seem to be a slow day of the week, every week. I enjoy reading the comments that readers leave - it provides that validation that someone is reading what I write and is taking something from it. I also tend to click through and check out the blog, if there is one, of the commenter. I have found a few sites I read regularly in this way.

If you had asked me a year ago if I would be a blogger, I might have laughed and said, I don't know a thing about blogging. But, here I am, having a great time.


Friday, January 30, 2009

CVS Deals - 1/30

I decided I better get to CVS today to get a few things that I had wanted to pick up. I tried to go on my lunch break, but when I got to the store, the shelves were bare. Upon back tracking to the door, I saw the notice that the pharmacy was open but the other merchandise was not available. You see, they are opening a new location sometime next week. I was disappointed.

So, then I headed to a different store. They had the items that I wanted and some that I had rainchecks for. Which turned into a headache, as the store manager told me that she would take the rainchecks just this once, since she hadn't issued them. She suggested that I really should have the store that issued the rainchecks print my ECBs. She told me that I couldn't use coupons for the items because my rainchecks were for free after ECB items. I questioned this, since I am able to use coupons to buy current ECB items - free or not. She agreed to allow me to use them just this once. I'm guessing that I won't rush back. It was a little frustrating, but I was glad to get some of the free after ECB items from before Christmas that I still had rainchecks for.

Here is what I got:

Transaction #1
1 - Gillette Shampoo
2 - Pantene Conditioners
2 - Arm & Hammer Essentials starters
1 - Benefiber 16 stick pack

-$2 Gillette mfg coupon
-$3 $3/2 Pantene mfg coupon
-$1 Arm and Hammer mfg coupon
-$1 Arm and Hammer mfg coupon
-$2 Benefiber coupon

I paid with $16 ECBs and $2.50 on a gift card and $1.05 in cash OOP. I earned $9 ECB. Then the manager printed a $10 ECB and a $3 ECB for the rainchecked items. I really wish she had split them correctly and done a $6 and a $7 ECB - would have saved me cash OOP in transaction #2.

Transaction #2
1 - Benefiber 62dose canister

-$2 Benefiber mfg coupon
-$3 CRT Benefiber

Paid with $3 ECB and $4.99 OOP. Earned $10 ECB.

I started the day with $16 in ECBs. I finished the day with $29 ECBs. I paid $2.50 on a free gift card and $6.04 in cash. I came out ahead (net of $4.46 profit), but as I said, would have preferred the ECBs were split properly - it would have saved me $4 OOP. I could have gotten a filler, but I was so frustrated with the raincheck discussion that I didn't want to have to go and find something on deal or that I needed for $2 or so.

To see how others did, check out Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom and CVS Superstars at the "Cent"sible Sawyer.

Fat Burnin' Friday - 1/30

Another week, another challenge.

I seem to find myself staying up way past my bedtime lately. This is not a good thing. Not only am I extremely tired the next morning, which makes getting up to exercises a thought I am unwilling to entertain, but I seem to have a tendency to eat when I stay up late (let's be clear, by late I'm talking 10:30 or 11:00). And, I can become a chain eater...I want something salty, then I want something sweet as a chaser. Studies have shown that people that get the appropriate amounts of sleep are more successful at maintaining/losing weight than those that don't. That should be reason enough to strive for a proper bedtime. Besides, I hate feeling tired.

The worst part is it seems to be a self-perpetuating cycle. Because I am going to bed late, I have trouble getting moving in the morning, so I am not getting to work until 8, which means I have to work later. Since I work later, I get home later. This means dinner is ready later and I don't have time to do much more than dinner and bath before the kids go to bed. That means, once they are in bed, I have a kitchen to clean-up and laundry to fold (since I didn't get up on time to do it all in the morning). Then, I don't want to miss that TV show (i.e. Lost - you have to watch it on Wednesday night, lest you overhear something the next day) so I turn on my DVR and start watching on delay. Even with fast-forwarding, next thing I know, it is after 10 and I am still downstairs. So, yet again, I am late to bed and not getting the proper sleep.

Couple that with a busy work week with 4 working lunches and suddenly, I am stuck. I hope to catch up this weekend and get back on a more regular sleep pattern - it really does make a difference - and hopefully, have a more successful week next week.

Pounds lost to date: 7#
Pounds to go: 26#

Samples and Freebies

I didn't request many things this week:

Metamucil sample

Free Dr. Pepper
Free bottle of Ensure coupon.

My mailbox was busy this week. I received a couple more items that I won over at Mommin' It Up. I also received my Quaker Mini Delights with coupon and the Cascadian Farm Granola Bar.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sing a new song...

I love my children. I love Christmas music. I love to hear them sing Christmas music...just not at the end of January. Today, on the car ride from daycare to home, my youngest was serenading me with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Up on the Housetop.

For those of you with young children, you won't be surprised to hear that this is what I heard during the Rudolph portion of the concert:

Rudolph the red nose reindeer
had a shiny nose
if you saw it you say it glows

Up on the Housetop, we do a slightly more complete job with:

Up on the Housetop reindeer pause
out jumps Santa Claus
down through the chimney with lots of toys
all for little ones Christmas joys
HO HO HO HO HO HO who wouldn't go (never enough Ho Ho Ho)

Now, if only I knew more of Peter Cottontail than:

Here comes Peter Cottontail,
Hopping down the bunny trail...

then, perhaps I could teach her a new holiday song to sing.

I remember my son singing along with songs but I don't remember him singing them on his own at 2. I find it very endearing to hear her sing those songs - although, more so in season, than a month later.

I guess I need to start playing the nursery rhyme disc that I have in my car. At least then, we can hear more songs and maybe some of them will catch on. I know the words to those...I sang along with those for years with my son.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kid's Themed Birthday Cakes

One thing I remember from growing up is my mom making and decorating cakes. She had a shirt cake pan that she used to make a cake for the soccer team my dad coached. I remember her making some sort of a super hero cake - perhaps Batman, for my youngest brother.

When I grew up, I always wanted to take a cake decorating class, but still to this day, have yet to find a class that works for me and my schedule. But, that hasn't stopped me from baking cakes for my kids. Each year, we chose a theme for the party. When the kids were younger, we would choose for them. As they get older we offer an either or choice for them.

Once the theme is chosen, the next two challenges are the invitations (you can read more about the invitations here, as well as keeping costs in line) and the cake.

When it comes to the cake, I explore the web looking for thoughts on what others have done and go from there. I have made two cakes using Wilton pans - the Lightnin' McQueen and the Wiggles car both started with a shaped pan. The others were a combination of pans, trimming and stacking.

So, here are the cakes for our themes from the past few years:

Blue's Clues cake:

Airplane cake:

Cars - Lightnin' McQueen cake:

Elephants cake (big cake/smash cake):

Space cake:

Wiggles cake:

I really enjoy making the kid's birthday cake. First, I find it a great creative outlet for me and I am very proud of my creations. I love seeing their faces light up when they see the completed cake. My youngest, still talks about her Wiggles Cake, 3 months past her birthday. Second, it really is a more cost effective way to do birthdays. Most of the cakes I have made use a single cake mix, although some required two. I make my own butter cream frosting, but you could easily use a couple of tubs of frosting. In comparison to what a bakery or professional would charge, it is inexpensive. Granted, it does take time and planning, but to me it is worth it.

Find out what works for others over at Works For Me Wednesday over at Rocks In My Dryer. Be sure to stop by Life as Mom for her Birthday Cake Roundup on Thursday as well.

Free Diet Dr. Pepper

You can head over to Dr. Pepper's website and sign up for a coupon for a free bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper - your choice 20 oz or 2L. (Is there really any question on which one to sign up for?)

Mommy Blog Carnival

I am participating in the Mommy Blogger Carnival hosted by Sisterly Savings this week.

According to A Modern Mother, who organized the carnival, "A carnival is a blogging event and "The Best of the Mommy Bloggers Carnival" takes place every two weeks and features recent posts from the cream of the mommy blogger community."

You will find featured in the carnival, 25 blog posts from the mommy blogger community on topics ranging from couponing to meal prep to decluttering your home. Be sure to stop by and read more at this week's carnival.

To live in a smoke free state

Back in 2006, Ohio voters passed a law that disallows smoking in any public building and within a certain distance of the doors. This smoking ban went into effect in May 2007. I was definitely in support of this bill and I have to say, I really am glad the law is in effect.

I have really gotten used to restaurants, bowling alleys, bars and all being smoke free and nearly forgot what it used to be like every time you went out for the evening to spend hours in the smoky environment that many of those places were. I no longer had to worry about whether to protect my coat by leaving it in the car, while I ran down the block coatless in the cold. I don't have to carefully select my outfit, to ensure it is easy to clean clothing that could be washed to get rid of the stench that seemed to become one with my clothes in that smoky environment. I no longer have to consider the debate between showering upon my return home or just piling my hair into a ponytail on top of my head so that I could sleep at night without having to smell the smoke in my hair.

I remember as a kid spending time in smoky establishments. I would regularly go to the Elks with my grandparents to play Bingo. My family would go bowling or I would go with my mom when she bowled in a league. At dinner, we would wait for non-smoking but even that was right next to the smoking section. I can even remember when I would visit my mom at her work and employees were allowed to smoke in the office. It was not something I liked, but it was something that was normal and expected.

Now, it is great to be able to take my kids somewhere and not to be bothered with smoke. I don't feel like I am risking my children's health when we want to take them bowling or to a restaurant that is a pub that wouldn't have had a non-smoking section before. Wait times at the restaurants are down (in my opinion, based on at least our favorite local Mexican joint) as the whole restaurant can be used by non-smokers (not that the faction of sections was ever complete anyway) without having to worry about someones smoking disturbing your meal.

I realized how thankful I was for all of this when this past weekend my husband and I headed to Mountaineer for the day with friends. The smoke was overwhelming. My eyes burned, my throat was dry and I was coughing. We left with less money the smell of smoke in our hair, our clothes, our skin, and our coats. We drove home together in a closed car on a cold night surrounded by that smoke that we had spent the day absorbing. When we got home, my daughter was up. I had to change my clothes before I felt like I could rock her, not wanting her to breathe in that smoke on my clothes as she snuggled up to me trying to drift off into dreamland.

I know everyone has their vise and for some it is smoking. But, you know, many smokers I know don't even smoke in their own homes or cars - recognizing that it leaves behind a smell that just won't go away. Many years ago, my parents purchased a home from a family that smoked. When we moved in and began to paint the walls or wash all of the surfaces, you could see by comparison (and the yellow drips as the cleaning solution ran down the surface) just how much build up of smoke there was on the walls, the curtains, the doors, the cabinets and everywhere else. I just can't imagine how much of that gets into your lungs as a non-smoker in a smoky environment. I have no statistics, but I would have to guess that health in Ohio has improved for non-smokers, now that they can breathe easy that the air they are breathing at most places is cleaner for the lack of smoke.

I for one am glad that I live in a state where public buildings are smoke free.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blogging...the first six months, part 3

One of the things that I have really discovered in the months that I have been blogging is the number of sources for coupons.

The first thing that I learned is that not all coupon inserts are created equal. I quickly learned, as people posted coupon previews for the coming weekends paper and deals with coupons from their papers, that I didn't get many of the coupons that were included in a number of the posts and on some others, I got a coupon for the product, but not the same value. Recently, I started to subscribe to a second local paper from a larger city. Wow! The coupons are great. I get a number of duplicates, which is nice for deals, since I still get the local paper from the nearest city, but I get so many coupons that I wouldn't have gotten without the second city's paper. I'm still not sure how I feel about this. Why is it that the local paper that I had received wasn't "good enough" to receive those coupons? Why do the people 30 minutes away get better/more coupons? I recently saw this occur in reverse local paper had the bonus P&G Brand Saver, but the "new" paper that I was getting didn't have one.

I also became a lot more aware of the number of coupons that are available at the grocery store. Sure, I noticed the "Blinkies" and the Catalinas, but I never noticed all of the peelies, tear pads and more that are available right at the store. I do have to say though, that a lot of shoppers seem to take advantage of the tear pad coupons, taking a lot more than they themselves will use. I find this an unfair practice. Taking 2 or 3 is fine, pulling the whole pad, not so cool. I have even come across posts (not on any of the regular blogs I read, but on HCW and some sites I have linked to through one of my regular blogs) bragging about having gotten the full pad and offering them for trades, etc.

In addition to the different inserts in the local papers and in store displays, I was amazed to realize how many on-line coupons were available. I get asked by so many cashiers, "where do you find them?" I have found them at (see my sidebar),, and manufacturers' websites. In addition, many bloggers are kind enough to share direct links to where they found the coupon. I also learned that coupons do have print limits, which I think is a fine thing, as this allows everyone the opportunity to print some. I discovered that MyPoints, offers points for printing and redeeming the coupons available through their I get points for saving money and can redeem points for gift cards to save money - a win-win from my point of view.

I also have learned though that not all retailers will accept Internet coupons. One of my local stores does not accept them, and I have to say, they have lost some business as a result. I have taken their ad to price match at Walmart, when I have IPs for the deals that I want to take advantage of. This makes me feel bad...I would rather give the local store the business.

In addition to grocery coupons, I have found RetailMeNot and CouponCabin that post coupon codes for on-line shopping as well as some printable coupons for non-grocery items. I have used these resources to find coupon codes for things that I wanted to purchase. Bloggers also tend to share good deals and coupon codes that they have - which I appreciate greatly.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I headed to the grocery store on Sunday and did some stocking up as well as my regular weekly shopping. My grocery was having a deal on some meats and I was able to get the main course for 15 meals for $45.88 (an average of $3.05). After the past two weeks of stocking up, my freezer is once again full, so I will be able to make minimal shopping trips the next few weeks.

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.

Brunch - Out

Stuffed Peppers

Fish Sandwiches/Coleslaw


Breakfast sandwiches

School Carnival - Hot Dogs and Pizza

Steaks on the grill/Baked Potatoes

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 1/25

There are some simple deals to do this week.

Transaction #1
1 - Gillette Shampoo
-$2 $2/1 mfg coupon
Total $2.99, earn $3 ECBs.

Transaction #2
(repeat Transaction #1)
1 - Gillette Shampoo
-$2 $2/1 mfg coupon
Total $2.99, pay with $3 ECB from Transaction #1; earn $3 ECBs

Transaction #3
2 - Arm and Hammer Detergent (BOGO)

-$1 Arm and Hammer Printable
-$1 Arm and Hammer Printable

Total $4.99, pay with $3 ECB from transaction #2 and $1.99 OOP.

Total OOP is $4.98 for 2 bottles of Gillette shampoo and 2 bottles of Arm and Hammer Detergent.

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

Another transaction I am thinking about is as follows:

1 - Fusion Razor
1 - Gillette Shampoo

- Buy Fusion Razor get Gillette Shampoo free

Total $7.99. Earn $4 and $3 ECBs.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

CVS Deals - 1/24

I didn't think I was going to make a trip to CVS this week, but alas, my family is here and we are out of Pepsi. So, I headed to town to take advantage of the deal that they had this week on Pepsi. While there, I was able to use a rain check from Christmas week free after ECB sale and one of the monthly item. Still can't find the Throat Coolers at any local CVS. I might try to stop at one while I am out.

Transaction #1
1 - Tostito Chips
2 - Nasogel

- $2 Nasogel Mfg coupon
- $2 Nasogel Mfg coupon
- $3 $3/$15 FSA items

Paid with $10 and $1.98 ECBs and $.07 OOP (on free gift card). Earned $15.98 ECBs.

Transaction #2
6 - Pepsi brand 12pks
2 - Listerine 500mL

-$1 Listerine mfg coupon

Paid with $2 and $15.98 ECBs and $5.33 OOP (on free gift card). Earned $10 and $6 ECBs.

I paid $5.40 on gift cards today and improved my ECBs from $14 to $16. So, the net cost for everything was $3.40. Not too bad for six 12pks of pop and a bag of chips.

Check out more CVS savings at Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom and CVS Superstars at the "Cent"sible Sawyer.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fat Burnin' Friday - 1/23

Another week has come and gone. It simply amazes me how quickly time passes. Sometimes I think one of my biggest challenges in weight loss is time. I feel like I am constantly on the go and constantly trying to catch up.

As I'm busy running around, I have found that one thing I can do to help my weight loss cause is to keep myself hydrated. I once read somewhere that people frequently will confuse thirst for hunger. What? It sounds strange, but they say that sometimes you think you are hungry when in fact your body is just dehydrated. Not only that, but I have also read that if you find yourself hungry and tempted by a treat, drink a glass of water - it will "fill" you up and can help you get beyond the temptation. I do find that if I drink water before a meal, that I am less likely to overeat. The water takes up volume in the stomach, triggering that full feeling sooner. Another added benefit of proper hydration is your skin is much smoother and less dry.

How do I make sure I stay hydrated? I start my day by drinking a small glass of juice or milk. I then fill a large cup with water that I drink on my drive into work. When I get to work, I fill the cup back up with water. Keeping a cup of water at my desk allows me to sip at it all day. Usually, I have finished that cup by lunch, where I fill it back up. After lunch, I take another full cup of water back to my desk for afternoon sipping. Then, I usually try to take some water for the drive home.

And, there in lies my challenge. When I am at my desk at work, it is easy, the water is right there and I just drink it. But, when I have a super busy day at work or am at home on the weekends, I don't find the time to drink my water. Without that constant companion, I find that I actually get to a point where I am thirsty. If I stop to drink, I can usually drink a couple of cups, but sometimes I forget to stop. I start to mistake that thirst for hunger and begin to nibble.

I probably need to start keeping a cup on the counter at home with water. At least then, when I see it, I might stop and take a sip. I know that keeping hydrated is important and I do my best to drink the recommended water daily. I also try to avoid caffeinated drinks, which I hear actually serve to dehydrate you and that is why you can only count some of a caffeinated drink in your daily recommended intake.

Pounds lost to date: 7#
Pounds to go: 26#

Samples and Freebies

There were a number of new samples/coupons to request this week:
Quaker True Delights Bar
Boost Kid Essentials
Dove Shine Therapy Sample
Coupon for free Hansen Organic Junior Water
Reach Access Flosser
Crest White Strips

Enter to win daily: Kraft Foods Contest

This week, I received a few items from the giveaway I won over at Mommin’ It Up. I also received the cork that I had requested from Cook’s. I received coupons and recipe cards from VocalPoint for Starkist Tuna. I also got the $5 in Old Orchard Coupons.

Sloppy Joes

Jessica over at Life As Mom is hosting a recipe swap this week with the theme of comfort foods. To me, Sloppy Joes is a comfort food. There is a greasy spoon locally that offers Sloppy Joes, "just like mom used to make" with a side of macaroni and cheese as a lunch special. It is so good when you are having a bad day.

I enjoy making Sloppy Joes at home too. There is just something about that sweet and tangy filling on a good bun that is irresistible.

Sloppy Joes

1# ground meat
1 can diced tomatoes
3/4 c Ketchup
2 Tbsp brown sugar
chili powder

Brown meat and drain off fat. Add 1 can diced tomatoes and stir. To taste, add ketchup, brown sugar and chili powder (sorry! I don't actually measure those ingredients, I estimated what I think they are - I really do adjust to taste). Leave on heat until it is warmed through.

For the ultimate meal, serve it up with the Macaroni and Cheese recipe that Jessica shares on her comfort food Recipe Swap over at Life As Mom. For even more recipes, check out the recipe swap at The Grocery Cart Challenge.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blogging...the first six months, part 2

Since I started my blog, six months ago, I have put a more focused emphasis on menu planning. I don't always follow my menu plan completely, allowing for an occasional - not in the mood for x, having leftovers or an unplanned night out. But even with this occasional diversion from the menu plan, the process has really helped me in saving money and keeping us from getting bored with eating the same set of "no planning required" meals every week.

In menu planning, I start by focusing on what I have in the freezer and pantry and then look at where the deals are that week at the grocery. This has kept my stockpile items well rotated (I didn't always do such a great job before - stocking up at sales only to find it months later buried in the freezer or pantry). It also has allowed me to be more aware of what I have on hand, allowing me to look for stock up opportunities before we run out. This helps save money because it is more likely that I will get the items on sale, rather than paying full price.

I only plan week to week, finding that although monthly planning sounds good and maybe even more efficient, but I find it too be much harder to stick to that menu and therefore, feel it leaves me no better off than if I hadn't planned at all.

As I plan the menu for the week, I usually run it by my husband, asking what meals I haven't made in a while that he enjoys. This again ensures that the family is happy with the menu and that we keep it interesting. When I cook, I have also started making double size meals, consuming one that night and freezing one for a quick meal another night.

With menu planning, I have found the added benefits of reduced stress and less running around. I am able to make sure that I have the ingredients that I will need for that week's menu when I make my trip to the grocery store - saving me from so many last minute runs to the store. Plus, since I know what we are having for dinner the next night, I can pull stuff out of the freezer the night before and set in the refrigerator. This saves me from having to remember to do it the next morning or trying to figure out at 5 AM what I could possibly want for dinner that night.

I have also found that participating in Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie helps me stay on task with menu planning. Assorted recipe swaps through the week allows me to find new dishes to try out for the main course or side - another way to keep it more interesting and maybe find a new family favorite.

I would say that overall, menu planning has been a real positive for me.

Free Photo Valentine Day Cards

As I was out exploring today, I came across this deal from Stories by Everyone (part of Scrapbooks Etc.) at Common Sense with Money. You can upload a picture and make 6 free Valentine's Day cards. Enter 'valentine' at check out. Even the shipping is free. Offer expires February 1st, so don't delay.

At Stories by Everyone, the Valentine's Day cards are sold in sets of six for $.89 each (the 6 free is a $5.34 value) and there are 10 designs to choose from. The Valentine's Day cards are 3.5 x 4.875 and are flat (front and back printed) In addition to Valentine's Day, they offer Hanukkah, Christmas and Holiday cards, with a total of 40 designs to choose from. The larger cards are more expensive. You do have to create an account to make the card.

These would make cute Valentine's to give to the family.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kid's Birthday Parties

As I am preparing to participate in Life As Mom's Birthday Cake Round Up, I have been thinking a lot about birthday parties. One of the reasons that I make the cake for the kid's party is that it is immensely cheaper than purchasing one from the store (unless of course it is a first birthday and then you can get some sweet deals, like a free DQ birthday cake, at least at my store).

Every birthday party that we have thrown has had a theme. Some chosen by the parents others by the kids. We try to stick with the theme from invitation to party.

Once the theme is chosen, the next two challenges are usually the invitations and the cake (look for this post next week).

Here are the themes from the past few years for birthday parties:


Blue's Clues


Cars - Lightnin' McQueen




We make our own invitations, because it is fun and cheaper than purchasing the preprinted ones at the store. Some of our invitations have been pretty basic, dropping some clip art in next to the party details. We did this for the two first birthday parties - monkeys and elephants. But, we have also done some pretty fun invitations over the years for these parties. For my son's third birthday party, the theme was airplanes. We created a mocked up airline ticket/boarding pass and sent that to our guests. The year we did the space theme, we invited our guests with a letter to join our son on a mission to have a great birthday and included Special Access badges. For our Wiggle's party, we created mocked up tickets for a Wiggly Birthday Party and sent them from TicketFaster. Of course, we carry the theme into our return address labels, using the "logo" from the letters included with the "tickets" to the big event.

When it comes to the party itself, I have found that it is best to stick with solid color plates and napkins. For the Wiggles party, we had Blue, Yellow, Purple and Red plates and napkins. It helped carry the theme through the party without breaking the budget on "official" Wiggles paper products. Now, if I can find a themed party wear, I will often splurge on the napkins and pair them with the solid colored party wear. When we did the Lightnin' McQueen party, we had red and black plates, Lightnin' napkins and used black and white checked crepe paper for decorating.

Another way to keep kid's birthdays in budget is to host it at your house and make the food yourself. For our summer parties, we tend to cook out. We pick up a bag of premade burgers and some hot dogs. I make some accompanying sides and voila! party. In the winter, we opt for something that can easily be made to feed a crowd inside...frequently, this has been turkey - a big Thanksgiving style meal with all the trimmings, yum!.

I should put the disclaimer that to date, all of our parties have been just family and friends of the family. Those guests have children, but we haven't yet thrown a full-blown kid's party with friends. I am sure that we will probably have a party like that in the future, but I still think we can keep it on a reasonable budget. The oldest is in Kindergarten this year, so I am sure that soon his friends will start to have parties and he will want to follow suit.

Check back next week for the cake piece of Kid's Birthday Parties.

For more tips and tricks, check out Works For Me Wednesday over at Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Blogging...the first six months, part 1

I find it hard to believe that I have been an active member in the blogging community for six months already. I have learned a lot over the past six months, and not just about couponing.

One of the things that I have come to realize over these past few months of being a better couponer and an active CVS-er, is that name brand products really are that much better than the generics. There is a good reason for the price premium that comes with a name brand product. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely items (mostly food) where I have always been brand loyal, but in some areas, I was more willing to accept a close second for a few cents less.

Through couponing and CVS-ing, I have been purchasing mostly name brand health and beauty products for the past six months. Early on in this time frame, when I didn't have a stockpile, I was purchasing an assortment of brands when they were on deal. I had almost no brand loyalty during this phase on health and beauty, trying new brands in categories where I had always used the same brand forever. Having the chance to try some new brands has allowed me the opportunity to learn more about my own preferences when it comes to health and beauty products.

In some cases, I have found a new favorite brand. When it comes to antiperspirant, I had always been a Secret girl, but lately, it didn't seem to be as good and they had changed the product a few too many times. Through my shopping, I have tried quite a few other brands and have determined that I prefer the Lady Speed Stick 24/7. Now, when there is a deal on the Lady Speed Stick, I stock up and skip the other brands deals.

For some other products, I have determined that I will stick with the branded products from now on but I haven't necessarily narrowed it to one brand and continue to stock up, as needed on these items without much concern for the brand. (That's not to say that I haven't ruled some brands out.) When it comes to shampoo, I always thought that even the store brand shampoo was fine. Over time, you become accustomed to the performance and it's not bad, until you use a bottle of Pantene Pro V or Aussie and discover how much cleaner, bouncier, softer your hair really can be. I can't say I have a single favorite when it comes to shampoo, in part because I still use a weekday and weekend shampoo, so I need at least two brands (I think this comes from an article long ago about how the shampoo leaves build-up over time and it can't clean it's own build-up, so, you should use an alternate shampoo periodically to clean the other shampoo out of your hair) and in part because I like how my hair has responded to multiple brands that I have tried.

Not only have I tried new brands of the items that I use regularly, but I have also tried some products in a form that I hadn't used before and tried some products that I had never used before.

With some of these products, I have determined that I don't see the value in the different form/new item and wouldn't continue to purchase. One example of this are the wet facial cleanser clothes. In my day to day, I don't see a benefit of using these over a regular facial cleanser and washcloth and there is a price premium for these items.

With other new items I have tried, whether in a new form or an item that I previously did not purchase, I have found that I like the product. Take Benefiber, I had never purchased a fiber additive before, but with trial I have determined that I like the product and it is a great way to get a little extra fiber in my diet. If I can find deals on it, I will continue to purchase.

The nice thing is that with the couponing and CVS-ing that I do, I am almost always able to get the name brand health and beauty products for less than the store brands. This savings affords me the opportunity to stick with the branded products on the grocery side as well, without blowing my budget.

Have you tried a product that you might not have tried before that you can't imagine not using? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I headed to the grocery store on Sunday and did some stocking up as well as my regular weekly shopping. We got some really good deals on Green Giant frozen vegetables, Quaker Oats (4 canisters for $1.80 after coupons), DelMonte Fruit Naturals and canned meals. All told, we spent about $50 on 50 items for our regular groceries/stock up.

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.

Corn Dogs

Lemon Chicken


Soup and Sandwiches

Breakfast for dinner

Shredded Bbq Beef


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.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

CVS Scenarios - week of 1/18

I am still trying to pick up some of the monthly deals. The store I normally shop at doesn't carry the free after ECB items and last week was just too cold to go out. Otherwise, there are a handful of things that I will likely pick up.

Transaction #1

2 - Throat Coolers

-4.99 BOGO coupon IP

Total $4.99, earn $9.98 ECBs.

Transaction #2

1 - Nasogel
1 - CVS Allergy Relief

- $2 Nasogel IP

Total $9.78. Pay with $9.98 ECB adjusted down to $9.78(or pick up a filler for more OOP). Earn $7.99 and $3.79 ECBs.

Transaction #3

1 - Tide
1 - Cottonelle Moist Wipes
1 - Herbal Essence

-$1 Tide Mfg coupon
-$.50 Cottonelle Wipes Mfg coupon
-$1 Herbal Essence Mfg coupon

Total $12.46. Pay with the $7.99 and $3.79 ECB from transaction #2 and $.68 OOP. Earn $3 ECB and $1 ECB.

Pick up some items that you need or hold the ECBs to start you off next week.

Total OOP is $5.67 with $4 ECBs to roll.

Since this exceeds the $5 challenge rules, here is an alternate set of scenarios:

CVS $5 Challenge

Transaction #1

2 - Throat Coolers

-$4.99 BOGO IP

Total $4.99, earn $9.98 in ECBs.

Transaction #2

2 - Tide

-$1 Tide Mfg coupon
-$1 Tide Mfg coupon

Total $9.98, pay with $9.98 in ECBs from transaction #1.

Another deal worth checking out is the Pepsi/Frito Lay deal - spend $20, earn $10 ECBs. I think we are good on soda, but if not, will be taking advantage of this deal and submitting for the $15 in coupons rebate.

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

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Giveaway to Check Out

Erin over at JANE4girls is hosting a giveaway for a set of hotSACKS. These are really nice reusable grocery bags. As Erin points out, unlike the ones you buy at the store, these bags look nice and are not just a billboard for the store. What I really like is the reusable mesh bulk food bags. I have already purchased and oontinue to use a set of grocery bags, but would love to be able to conserve more by using a reusable bag for my produce. You can enter to win the giveaway over at JANE4girls site.

Six Months of Blogging

Today represents my 6-month blogiversary (this is a real word in the Urban Dictionary - I looked it up). It really has been quite a trip. I feel like I have learned quite a bit through my blog. I have "met" some really nice fellow bloggers along the way and have become better at finding deals, organizing transactions to minimize OOP and planning my menu. Over the next couple of days, I am planning to do some reflective blogging and share with you some of the things that I have found in the past six months.

Here's to the next six months!

Rite Aid Deals - 1/16

I couldn't not pick up the Rite Aid deal on Huggies. I saw a lot of posts that combined the pull-up and wipe deal, but I didn't need wipes, so I spent a little more but got what I needed.

2 - Jumbo Pack Huggies Pull Ups
1 - Jumbo Pack Huggies Supreme Natural Diapers

-$5/$25 Rite Aid coupon
-$2 Pull Ups Mfg Coupon
-$2 Pull Ups Mfg Coupon
-$1.50 Huggies Diaper coupon

$21.34 OOP. I will send for my Single Check Rebates for $10 Rite Aid Gift Card with $25 Kimberly Clark purchase and $2 rebate on 1 Jumbo pack Pull-ups. My effective cost will be $3 each for Jumbo pack diapers/pull-ups. Can't complain about that.

Check out more deals at Drugstore Divas on The "Cent"sible Sawyer and Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fat Burnin' Friday - 1/16

This week was a typical, challenging week for me on the food front. Plus, it was SUPER cold here this week. It was -14 out when I woke up this morning. I find it really hard to get motivated to get out from under my blanket and work out on a morning like that. So, needless to say, I have yet to implement the exercise piece of my weight loss plan.

I work outside the home. I typically pack my lunch which allows me to control what I am eating for lunch. But, best laid plans and all, sometimes there are working lunches or lunch meetings. This typically means catered lunches. Catered lunches usually mean dessert. I can't resist dessert. Why is that? When I pack, I don't include a sweet, but when I am eating a lunch at a meeting, I have to have that dessert - cookie, brownie, etc. Sure, I could pack my lunch, but then I feel awkward. Everyone else is eating the catered meal and I'm nibbling on carrot sticks. I don't want to be a loner, an outsider. Plus, even if I pack, might I not still grab a dessert?

But, all is not lost. I can chose to eat healthy, even when the lunch is provided for me. If there is a salad, I first fill my plate with salad and then add some of the main meal/side dishes. If there is not a salad, I do my best to balance the meal, so that I'm not eating too much of anything. I can cut a piece of chicken or lasagne in half, to make it an appropriate serving for me. I can select a turkey sandwich over a chicken salad made with mayo and such. I can choose water to drink, over the soda. When I take my dessert, I can take the small piece or half a piece. If it is cookies, I can eat part and throw the rest out. (I hate to waste food, but better a little waste than a big waist!) I have heard that having a small sweet each day can keep you from binging later.

Catered lunches can create a challenge, but if you approach it smartly, they don't have to set you back on your weight loss goals.

Pounds lost to date: 6#
Pounds to go: 27#

Samples and Freebies

DelMonte 100 calorie fruit (first 50,000 registered users)

Head and Shoulders

Free bottle of Suave coupon – offer only good on 1/14.

A relatively quiet week for the mailbox. I received:
• three tea bags from Yogi tea along with a coupon
• a sample of Tide total care with coupon

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen

Kids love to imitate what they see. Who hasn't had the companionship of a toddler with a wooden spoon and a bowl, while you are busy preparing dinner or baking. My son would play house. He made lots of pitchers of coffee with the Tupperware pitcher and cup set I had as a kid. (I find this funny, since I don't drink coffee and we only make it when we have guests.) Frequently, when I head to the kitchen to cook, my daughter loves to join me by cooking in her new kitchen she got for Christmas. She brings me plates of goodies - although I have to watch what I "eat", yesterday I nearly ate the pizza intended for Daddy that I evidently had just been given to hold and she let me know that it was Daddy's.

Cooking can not only be educational in helping your children learn to prepare food for themselves, but can also be a great way to teach math lessons, science lessons and more. You can cut sandwiches into squares and triangles; into halves or quarters. You can show how adding salt can make the water boil quicker. You can show how yeast can make the bread grow big by filling it with air.

Plus, it is a great bonding time. Cooking with a child can make them feel special. I have a picture of my son, standing on a backwards chair, wearing an apron, covered in frosting and wearing the biggest smile - it was a fun day, he was helping me decorate cupcakes for Daddy's birthday. We had a blast. It also gives them a great sense of accomplishment to tell everyone that they made it.

Helping to cook can also help kids eat more varieties of food. I have heard of people letting their kids choose a new food to purchase and prepare to expand the foods that they will eat. Somehow, assisting in choosing and preparing can make the same "yucky" food turn into something that they want to eat.

I don't have a specific recipe that I find is particularly best for preparing with children in the kitchen. I think that if you do the appropriate prep work, many recipes can be made with a child.

Mini-pizzas are a great and easy treat to prepare with your kids. They can build their pizza with their own favorite toppings.

Bagel halves (could also use pitas or English muffin halves)
Pizza sauce
Asst Pizza toppings

Parent step: Preheat oven to 375F. Place pepperoni slice over the hole in the bagel (keeps the sauce from leaking). Top bagel with sauce.

Kid step: Top with desired toppings and cheese and place on pizza stone.

Parent step: Place pizza stone in oven. Bake for 15 -20 minutes.

Share and enjoy.

Jessica over at Life As Mom is doing a recipe swap today, around the theme of cooking with the kids. For more kid friendly recipe ideas, check out the Recipe Swap: In the Kitchen with Kids.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shhh! Don't tell the kids...

...not everyone eats their vegetables frozen.

When my kids were younger, and starting to eat finger foods, I would pack a small bowl of frozen peas with me when we headed out to run errands. It was a great snack for them if they got hungry while we ran our errands. They weren't messy, so I didn't have to worry about everything getting sticky. The cold peas also did a great job of soothing those inflamed teething gums, so there was the added benefit of having a not as fussy teether. I also didn't have to worry about them getting wound up from a sugar surge. Plus, there was no concern that they were snacking on something that would ruin their appetite for the good food.

When I would serve peas at dinner, I always warmed them up. Then, one night, my son requested that I give him his peas frozen. Now, many of the smaller frozen vegetables (peas, peas and carrots, and mixed vegetables) are requested in their frozen form. I don't mind. As long as they eat the vegetables, I am fine with it. Plus, I find myself fighting the clock with dinner prep and pouring a bowl of frozen vegetables to nibble one while dinner finishes cooking is a quick and easy fix to the cries of hunger.

Snacking on vegetables from the earliest days, I think, also helped them build a taste for vegetables in general and to view them as a snack item, not just a meal item. If I have a bag of cut fresh veggies in the refrigerator, the kids love to snack on them. He used to take cut up peppers in the car with him to snack on on the way to daycare. He loves celery and carrots - with or without dip. In the summer, the kids can hardly wait to eat our cherry and grape tomatoes fresh from the garden.

For other tips that work, check out Works For Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

Free Suave - Today!

Don't forget to go to Suave to request your coupon (up to $3) for a free bottle of Suave. You have to register and the coupon will be mailed to you. Offer only good until 11:59 PM tonight.

Update: Signed up this morning. Not, but at the bottom of the same page that announced it (corrected my link). Paper coupon should be mailed in 2-4 weeeks and expires at the end of February.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two Giveaways to Check Out

I entered two giveaways tonight.

The first: SwagGrabber Give A Way - $88 Vera Bradley Backpack + Goodies! You can enter once a day, plus earn bonus entries. I don't currently own any Vera Bradley, but have eyed it many times. You can learn more and enter to win a here.

The second: $avings Makes ¢ents is giving away an Entertainment Book. I have one already, but a second one could just increase savings, especially since there would be no cost for this one. To enter, head here.

Good luck!

CVS Deals - 1/12

So, I headed back to my one CVS store because when I called on Saturday, I was told that if I brought back my coupon and my receipt, that they would accept my coupon retroactively. I was glad, I hated the thought of losing $2.50.

What I got:
2 - M&Ms Cupid Mix
2 - CVS/pharmacy Spectravite 130ct

-$2.50 coupon they gave me credit for from last transaction
-$3 CVS brand
-$3 CVS brand

Paid with $3 in ECBs and $.49 on gift card. Earned $2 ECBs.

I would still like to get to a "larger format" store, as those are the ones that I am told carry the items from the monthly deal that my store doesn't carry. But, with the cold that we are expecting over the next few days (highs in the single digits), I might not want to venture out, so it might just have to wait until next week.

For more great deals, check out CVS Superstars at The "Cent"sible Sawyer.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Walgreens Deal - 1/12

I don't have a Walgreen's nearby, so I only shop their occasionally. I knew that I would be driving by a Walgreen's tonight, so this morning I planned a trip to Walgreen's.

Unfortunately, they were out of a couple of the items I had hoped to pick up - Fructis (the variety I wanted), the Kleenex tissues and Oust.

Here is what I got:

2 - Windex Antibacterial Spray
1 - Aquafresh Toothpaste

-$.40 Windex coupon
-$.40 Windex coupon
-$.75 Aquafresh coupon
-$2 Easy Saver coupon

Total $3.67 OOP. I will submit for the Windex rebate from Sunday's paper and get back $3.79.

In the end, I will be ahead $0.12. I told my husband this, and he reminded me about the stamp. So, I guess to be correct, I will be out $.30 for the purchase. Not too bad for 2 Windex and a tube of Aquafresh toothpaste. I remember when I might have paid closer to $5 for all of this, so $.30 seems okay.

Check out more deals at Money Saving Mom Super Savings Saturday.

Free Suave

According to the information provided here, you can go back to on January 14th to get a coupon for a free bottle of Suave. So be sure to head over on January 14th.

Menu Plan Monday

Another busy week ahead.

We got a special treat on Sunday when our friends came over and prepared moose for us. They used it in meatloaf and parmesan cutlets. It was definitely different - "gamey" they called it.

I did head to the grocery Sunday and did some stocking up on cereal, as well as my regular weekly shopping. I had all of those $1 on Kellogg's cereals from a couple of weeks ago that will expire soon and some of those $1 on Quaker Oatmeal coupons. One local grocery was having a good breakfast sale and I took advantage. I picked up 12 boxes of cereal and 4 boxes of oatmeal for under $15. That felt like a pretty good deal to me. I also used up a couple of VocalPoint coupons for the DelMonte Fruit Naturals that expired today.

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.

Meatloaf / Parmesan Cutlets / Pasta e Fagioli


Sloppy Joes


Breakfast for dinner

Leftovers/Pampered Chef party samples

??? (I'm sure I'll figure something out)

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.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

CVS Scenarios - week of 1/11

I'm honestly not very excited about this week's deals. I need some vitamins, so I will likely head out to pick up those and some of the monthly deals, since my regular store doesn't carry them.

Transaction #1
2 - M&Ms 2/$5

Total $5, earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Kleenex 3 pack

-$.50 Kleenex mfg coupon (any bundle pack)

Total $3.19, pay with $2 ECBs from transaction #1 and $1.19 OOP. Earn $1 ECB.

Transaction #3
2 CVS/pharmacy Spectravite (130 ct tab) BOGO

-$3 CVS brand coupon
-$3 CVS brand coupon

Total $.99, pay with $1 ECBs from transaction #2 adjusted down.

Transaction #4
1 - CVS Training Pants $2/$12.99 (going to get one to try)

-$3 CVS brand coupon

Total $3.50.

Total for the day $9.69 OOP, no ECBs to roll.

If I can find some of the monthly deals, I will likely do them as well - I have not yet found the Throat Coolers or the Nasogel. I'm also hoping that the other store has some of the bonus packs from last week that my store was out of.

Check out more deals and scenarios at Deal Seeking Mom and the "Cent"sible Sawyer.

CVS $5 Challenge
I figured the following transactions (really a weak week)

Transaction #1
2 - M&Ms 2/$5

Total $5, earn $2 ECBs.

Transaction #2
2 CVS/pharmacy Spectravite (130 ct tab) BOGO @ $6.99
2 - Nestle single bars

-$3 CVS brand coupon (details at the "Cent"sible Sawyer)
-$3 CVS brand coupon

Total $1.99, pay with $2 ECBs from transaction #1 adjusted down.

See even more $5 scenarios in the CVS $5 Challenge at Keeping the Kingdom First.

Friday, January 9, 2009

CVS Deals - 1/9

I headed to CVS today, hoping to get a lot of stuff for not too much out of pocket. Unfortunately, I learned that my CVS doesn't carry many of the items that were on my list and they were out of a number of other items. I had four transactions planned, so I went with my first one and substituted for the missing items. It was beginning to really snow, so I didn't have time to reformulate fully and skipped items I would have picked up. I might try to go to a different store tomorrow if the snow wraps up sooner than expected.

Here is what I got:
2 - Stayfree (one was a bonus pack)
2 - Children's Tylenol
1 - Sudafed 48ct
2 - Ladies Speedstick 24/7
1 - Fructis styler

-$5 $5/$25 of Stayfree/Tylenol/Sudafed/etc I received in mail
-$3 $3/$15 coupon
-$4.50 BOGO Stayfree
-$2.50 $2.50/2 Children's Tylenol (I missed this! I'm so bummed!)
-$1.50 Sudafed
-$1.50 Ladies Speedstick CRT
-$1 Fructis

Total $19.96, paid with $11.98 and $6.99 ECBs and $.99 on gift card. Earned $10, $3 and $2 ECBs. No quarterly ECBs printed. I have to call to check on this. Will have to see if the store can credit my coupon since I forgot it. Totally disappointed by this extra $2.50 with my oversight on this coupon. I could have added the toothpaste to the deal if I had used my coupon. I had it in hand, but didn't want to increase OOP.

Check out more deals at CVS Superstars over on The "Cent"sible Sawyer.

Fat Burnin' Friday - 1/9

In the past, I have attempted to lose weight. The one thing that I have learned is that accountability goes a long way to helping me maintain my focus. When I know that I have to weigh in and/or report out to others how I am doing, I don't want to have to admit complete failure. It's okay to say, I had an oops, but I recovered and got back on track, but not okay to say, I gave up completely.

So, since I stumbled across MommySnacks last Friday and saw that she posted about her success and challenges and invited others to share, that this would be something for me to try. Maybe the accountability of sharing my successes and challenges would help me maintain my focus. I hope to put up a post each Friday, not only with feedback on how I did that week, but also to share with you challenges I face and what has or has not worked for me in the past/present. Shared motivation can help us all get where we would like to be.

I weighed myself on New Year's Day. It has been just over a week now and I haven't been overly diligent or kept track of everything I have ate, but coming off the holiday eating fest and trying to be more conscientious in my choices has allowed me to start to drop a couple of pounds. I will base my target off of my New Year's morning weight (do you use morning or evening?). This is really more of an intermediate target. I could stand to lose more than this, but have found that setting a series of smaller goals is also easier to motivate towards. As you reach a target, have a mini-celebration and head forward to the next. Setting your target too high can make it seem insurmountable.

Pounds lost to date: 5#
Pounds to go: 28#

Samples and Freebies

Looks like with the new year there are some new samples out there. Here is what I signed up for this week:

Gold Bond lotion

Quaker Rice Cakes

Barbara’s organic cereal

Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds

Cream of Wheat sample

Soy Joy Bar Sample

My mailbox was relatively quiet this week. I only received one thing this week:

Ziploc Vacuum starter from Right at Home. I haven't tried it yet.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sam's Club

I don't personally belong to Sam's Club anymore, because we switched to BJ's a few years ago when we had our son. BJ's accepts coupons and back when I did belong to Sam's Club they didn't accept coupons. This is a good benefit for me, because their prices seemed very comparable and I always have diaper coupons

Anyways, the reason for this post is that earlier today I noticed a Sam's ad that indicated that you could get a free $25 gift card with membership, when you join January 15 - 21. For the details, head over to this page at Sam's Club website. An Advantage (basic) membership is $40. The gift card makes your effective price for your first year of membership only $15. You can't actually use the gift card for your membership fee, but you can use it save on your first purchase at Sam's. If you don't belong to a club already and have a Sam's Club nearby, this might be a nice way to try them out for a year.

Green Beans and dip

This is a really simple recipe that is a great way to munch on fresh veggies. I don't know about you, but sometimes it can be difficult to fit five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables into my diet everyday, let alone getting the kids to eat that many. At my house, the kids like to munch on vegetables. They are more likely to eat them as a finger food than any other way(even peas are a finger food) and if they want to snack while I make dinner - vegetables are my choice. So, when I can find fresh green beans at a good price, this is a great way to snack on green beans.

1# Fresh Green Beans, tipped

Put into boiling water for 4 minutes, then immediately put into icy water.

Since, every munchy vegetable needs a dip. We make this horseradish dip, with light mayonnaise to eat with them:

1/4 c Light Mayonnaise
1 tbsp Horseradish (if your kids aren't adverse you can kick it up by doubling this)
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp vinegar

Mix together. Serve with fresh veggies, not just green beans.

For more healthy ideas, head over to Life as Mom, where Jessica is hosting The Healthy New Year Edition of Recipe Swap. Find even more recipes at the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

This recipe shared at Life As Mom Ulitmate Recipe Swap - vegetables.

Birthday Cakes

Jessica at Life as Mom is hosting a Birthday Cake Roundup on January 29th. Be sure to stop over at Life as Mom on January 29th to check out the entries and share your own handiwork.

I plan to pull together a post with pictures of the assorted themed birthday cakes I have made for my kids over the years - Blue, Airplanes, Cars, Space, Elephants and Wiggles. I have so much fun making cakes for my kids - their eyes light up when they see the cake. My youngest is still talking about her Wiggles cake two months later. I am excited to participate. Be sure to check back later this week for my post.

In addition, Jessica is aksing for nominations for a cake theme that once voted on, she will attempt to undertake. You can submit your nominations here. This might be a great way to get an idea for an upcoming party theme you are planning at your house.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fun with Words

I'll admit this came to me today in an e-mail, with no source information. I removed a couple of the words.

I am a sucker for word and number games, so this was right up my alley. I love to play Scrabble and figure out words to build. I like playing how many words can you make from "xxx". I've even played a version of that game at a baby shower, where you try to build first names for baby out of "MomName and DadName LastName". You can get some pretty interesting names for baby that way.

Someone had some free time to come up with these. I found these entertaining, hope you do too...

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

Keeping up on Laundry

Many of my friends tell me that I'm a super-mom. They tell me that their not sure how I do it all and seem so completely unstressed by it and relaxed. I completely disagree with the moniker. I'm no different than any other mom, I just have found what works for me and that has made life all the more manageable. One area that I had to change my approach to was laundry. I've been doing laundry for years, but I do it differently now.

When I was in high school, my mom had me do my own laundry. She felt it was important that I learn this life skill before heading out on my own someday. (Now as a mom, I think she also wanted to lighten the amount of laundry she was managing.) When it was just me, in high school and then in college and as a young adult, the laundry was just mine. I had one hamper, everything went in. When it was full, I did all of my laundry. Usually 3 loads, towels and socks, lights and darks.

When I got married, I found that one hamper filled way to fast, so I moved to two hampers - one for whites/lights and one for darks. It still seemed to be around 3-4 loads per week and I would tackle it all one day.

Now, as a mom, I have found that there is just too much laundry to do in one day. Over Christmas break, I did my best to catch up completely on laundry - doing 2 or 3 loads some days, so I have the week off. But, normally, I try to do a load every/every other day. I tend to alternate a load that hangs to dry (we use an indoor metal rack - much better than the old wooden dowel ones) and a load that dries in the dryer. This allows my clothes to have two days to hang before I give them a quick tumble and fold them. One load a day also is very manageable for me. Frequently, I throw the load in the washer when I get up and then put it in the dryer when I go up for my shower. After dinner, I can give it a quick tumble and fold it.

Not only does daily laundry keep me from feeling inundated by laundry, but it also helps balance things so that we don't run out of anything and things that need to be cleaned in quick turnaround can make it into a load on time. In fact, uniforms and the like, generally skip the hampers and head directly to the laundry room where they can be added to the next appropriate load.

Another benefit of my approach is that I am using power, water, gas in a period of the day that is regularly low usage (peak periods are 6a - 9a and 5p - 9p). Something that is advised (and even compensated with some plans) by power companies because they purchase off peak power at a cheaper rate than peak periods, they just don't all pass this on to the customer - unless you consider that a shift to off-peak periods lowers the total cost and in turn can keep the costs lower for the customers as a whole. Plus, with daily laundry, I can allow my clothes to dry without the need to run the dryer, saving more energy (read dollars).

I do save sheets for the weekend, finding it easier to strip and remake beds on the weekend - especially since all of my beds are still occupied with sleepy kids/spouse when I am up and doing my daily laundry and the evenings are too busy already to add in bed changing.

Now, if only we could put away laundry on a daily basis, we might be in good shape. The baskets tend to hang out for a couple of days before they make it back to the appropriate drawers and closets.

To learn more tips and tricks, that others find to work in their life, check out Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer. Shannon has a great tip on memory boxes today.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Coupon Website

The "Mad Clipper", a writer for the Business section of the Akron Beacon Journal, has been doing a series lately on saving money and using the various programs like register rewards and ECBs to get the most for your money. In a recent Saturday paper, she provided a list of websites that she uses to find coupons. Most of them, I had heard of before, but one site that she included that I had not heard of was I have explored the site and thus far am pleased with the mix of on-line and print coupons that it provides access to.

I most recently used it to find a coupon code for JCPenney to purchase some bedding for our daughter. I had store coupons that had a code for use online that could have saved me $15 on $75 (20%), but since my order was higher than $75, my percentage saved would have been lower using the $15 off coupon. By searching Coupon Cabin, I was able to find a coupon code to save 20% on the total order.

In addition to on-line coupons for the web, they also have links for ooupons that can be printed for use in store at many stores. Not only do they have store coupons, but they also have links to avaialable printable coupons for grcoeries.

Next time you are in need of a coupon or coupon code, check them out.

Menu Plan Monday

Tomorrow is back to a regular schedule around here. I return to work and the kids to school/daycare. It is going to be a rough morning I am sure. I have some easy, pull them out of the freezer menus planned for this week to help ease us back into the daily routine.

I did head to the grocery Sunday. It was a rather expensive shopping trip, but the last few weeks have been low, so it all balances out in the end. I also picked up a number of frozen meals that were on a great deal for packing in lunches for my husband and me.

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.

Chicken Philly Steaks/Buffalo Chicken Philly Steaks

Chicken Gravy over biscuits

Cube Steaks and Rice

Macaroni Grill - pasta kit with Chicken

Turkey Open Face Sandwiches

Pork Tenderloin

Cheesy Chicken Pasta

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.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

CVS Scenarios - week 1/4

There seem to be a number of deals to kick off the new year at CVS. Here are some scenarios to allow you to get a few bagfuls of product for $8 OOP. I didn't use the $3 on CVS pharmacy brand or $3/$15 coupons that are available. You could use those to sweeten the deal even more.

Transaction #1
2 - Children's Throat Cooler

-$4.99 BOGO Children's Throat Cooler IP coupon

Total $4.99; earn $9.98 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Nasogel Drip Free
1 - Fructis Shampoo
2 - Colgate Toothpaste

-$2 Nasogel IP coupon
-$1 Fructis mfg coupon
-$1.50 Colgate mfg coupon
-$1.50 Colgate mfg coupon

Total $9.98. Pay with $9.98 ECBs from Transaction #1. Earn $7.99, $2 and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - Nasogel Drip Free
2 - Progresso soups

-$2 Nasogel IP coupon
-$1.10 Progresso soup IP

Pay with $7.99 ECBs from Transaction #2 adjusted down to $7.88 and earn $7.99 ECBs.

Transaction #4
2 - Stayfree
2 - Children's Tylenol

-$4.50 BOGO Stayfree mfg coupon
-$2.50 $2.50/2 Children's Tylenol mfg coupon

Total $13. Pay with $11.99 ECBs from Transaction #2 & #3 and $1.01 OOP. Earn $10 ECBs.

Transaction #5
2 - Alka Seltzer Plus
1 - Bayer

-$1 Alka Seltzer Plus mfg coupon
-$1 Alka Seltzer Plus mfg coupon
-$1 Bayer mfg coupon

Total $12. Pay with $10 ECBs from Transaction #3 and $2 OOP. Earn $5 ECBs.

You can either use those $5 ECBs to purchase some other items or hold them for next week.

See more deals and scenarios at Deal Seeking Mom, The "Cent"sible Sawyer and Money Saving Mom.

CVS $5 Scenario
Simply complete transactions #1 - 3 and #5 above. You end up with the same ECBs to roll, you just get a few less items. (Okay, I just realized that the CVS $5 Challenge is supposed to only be 3 scenarios)

Transaction #1
2 - Children's Throat Cooler

-$4.99 BOGO Children's Throat Cooler IP coupon

Total $4.99; earn $9.98 ECBs.

Transaction #2
1 - Nasogel Drip Free
1 - Fructis Shampoo
2 - Colgate Toothpaste

-$2 Nasogel IP coupon
-$1 Fructis mfg coupon
-$1.50 Colgate mfg coupon
-$1.50 Colgate mfg coupon

Total $9.98. Pay with $9.98 ECBs from Transaction #1. Earn $7.99, $2 and $2 ECBs.

Transaction #3
1 - Nasogel Drip Free
2 - Progresso soups

-$2 Nasogel IP coupon
-$1.10 Progresso soup IP

Pay with $7.99 ECBs from Transaction #2 adjusted down to $7.88 and earn $7.99 ECBs.

Transaction #4 (optional)
2 - Alka Seltzer Plus
1 - Bayer

-$1 Alka Seltzer Plus mfg coupon
-$1 Alka Seltzer Plus mfg coupon
-$1 Bayer mfg coupon

Total $12. Pay with $11.98 ECBs from Transaction #3 and $0.02 OOP. Earn $5 ECBs.

You can either use those ECBs to purchase some other items or hold them for next week.

For more $5 scenarios, check out Keeping the Kingdom First CVS $5 Challenge.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Under construction

I'm working on modifying the set up for this blog, so it may look a little strange from time to time. Hopefully, I will get it settled in shortly.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Samples and Freebies

I found a few good things to request this week.

Total Cranberry Crunch

Orville Redenbacher Natural Popcornsample from Kroger

$3 coupon for Ben & Jerry’s.

Cascadian Farm Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bar

$2 Coupon for Post Trail Mix Crunch Cereal

My mailbox was quiet though. I didn't recieve any samples, coupons or other freebies.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Totino's Pizza Rolls, $1 off any variety.

Get $15 in Pepsi/Frito coupons by mail when you purchase product between now and 2/1/09.

Yummy freebies (or nearly free)

Today, we headed out to do some needed shopping at the warehouse store and stopped by Target to look for a few things. While at Target, we decided to check how much the Ben & Jerry pints were. We had each printed off our $3 off of Ben & Jerry's pints yesterday. Target had them for $3.04, making them $0.04 each (nearly free). Not too bad for a pint of ice cream. Our five year old claimed he could eat a whole pint - I think I might be able to too, but would never allow myself or him to eat that much ice cream in one sitting.

Then, as we were heading home, we passed Sheetz and since it was not yet 4 pm, we stopped in for a quick top off of the gas tank and free coffee. I asked if the cappucino machine coffee was included and the clerk told me it was. I tried Creme Brulee and my husband had French Vanilla. I'm not sure the cappucinos were supposed to be included, but they were definitely tasty and I am glad that the clerk included them.