Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What have you got for me lately?

We were out of town for the holiday and we missed all the crazy snowy Seattle weather. I had asked a neighbor to collect our mail while we were gone but because of the weather, they didn't deliver - that's how bad it was! It all got delivered today and here's what was in it:

1 Playtex BPA-free bottle
1 Orville Redenbacher's Natural popcorn plus $1.50/2 coupon
1 Free Genesis Juice coupon which also included 1 free container of Toby's Salad Dressing and Toby's Tofu Pate. Not a big pate person but I'll try anything for free!

Most exciting for me was the Pillsbury recipe and coupon book. It is awesome! Includes yummy-looking recipes that I can't wait to try and best of all, $10 worth of coupons for Pillsbury and other General Mills products. You really can't go wrong with this deal. You can still sign up for it here:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Try Something New - Veggie Crisps

I've mentioned that we get the majority of our produce from a local Community Supported Agriculture farm. Sometimes we get to try a new or unusual vegetable or fruit. Last week, we got kale. I can't remember ever eating kale before in my life. It looks like you could make a hearty salad out of it but a raw bite of it did not appeal to my salad taste buds.

I remembered seeing a Martha Stewart episode where she baked up some crispy curly kale that looked fun. A search of her website unfortunately yielded no results. So a quick Swagbucks search brought me to Mollie Katzen's website - Mollie is a well-known vegetarian cook and author of the famous Moosewood cookbooks. I used her simple instructions and added garlic salt because I like garlic salt.

All you do is pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop off the stems of the kale. I chopped fairly small pieces and left the middle parts in but if you want to use as more of a chip you could chop bigger pieces, and remove the middles. Line a baking sheet with foil and brush or spread 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread the kale on top of the oil and using a spatula, mix it so that the kale gets some of the oil. Sprinkle with garlic or other seasoning and put in the oven. I put it in for 10 minute intervals, then turning/mixing to ensure that the crisps are evenly cooked. Bake for a total of 30 minutes until kale are crisp. Cool and serve!

Mine wasn't curly but it baked up quite nicely and although it doesn't look all that pretty, they are actually very crisp and different. Tell your family to close their eyes to try it. These offer a change of pace from your usual chips and I will serve these in the future with maybe a light spinach dip, or other creamy dip. These might also be good sprinkled on top of mashed potatoes or other side dishes.

The Grocery Cart Challenge
has done it again - lots of great recipes in the weekly swap, fresh ideas for the New Year! Head on over there to check it out.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I hope everyone is enjoying this special holiday with family and friends. My parents weathered the brutal Seattle weather to come up to the mountains and we had an early Christmas dinner with them last night. My husband's family was all snowed in so we miss them today. It was a chaotic gift opening this morning but we are now relaxing and just enjoying the day.

I will be posting another great recipe tomorrow and posting regularly again next week. Safe travels to all and peace be with you!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Credit Cards - Why They Work For Me

A lot of frugal websites are families who are already debt-free, who live on less and I would guess the majority are those who don't use credit cards at all as part of their personal financial plans. Most financial planners and advisors do not advocate the use of credit cards at all.

I have a confession to make: I have credit cards. AND I use my credit cards as part of my financial plans and as part of my budget.

Here's what I do and why:

1) I only use cards that give me something back. For most everyday expenses, I use 2 cards: an Alaska Air Visa and Discover.

What do I get? 1 mile for every dollar spent on the Alaska card and additional miles when purchasing tickets on Alaska Air. They often have promo periods where you earn 2 miles for every dollar on Alaska tickets. We have earned a TON of miles this way.

My kids' daycare accepts no credit cards other than Discover, so I earn money back for all I spend on that huge expense. Discover offers a paltry 1% cash back in general. However, four times per year they run promotional periods where you can earn 5% cash back as a bonus in different spending categories. For example, October 1 through December 31 I earn 5% at all grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters and movie rentals. Although I've been cutting my grocery bills dramatically thanks to couponing and wise shopping, I'm also earning when I spend.

2) Pay balances in full every month. This has not always been the case but I save all my receipts and I diligently keep track of billing periods to make sure that I have enough to cover the whole month's expenses.

3) Use a card that gives you get an extra discount. Macy's is one example of this, they always seem to have an extra 15% or 20% off "when you use your Macy's card." Often this even applies to clearance merchandise. Since I already have the cash saved for these purchases, I pay the balance in full when the bill comes. This extra discount can really make the difference. We used these special discount days to buy furniture quite a few years ago, turning a large expense into a lesser one just by using the card.

Do I sometimes forget about purchases? Yes. Unfortunately, I am not one of those write everything down people - I wish I was! But I also confess that I pad my budget a bit for over the amount that I will actually need. That way I still have enough to pay off the balance in full every month.

Other frugalistas may disagree with these reasons but it works for me and I am earning either cash back (albeit not at an extraordinary rate, but something nonetheless) or mileage, which helps us vacation more frugally.

So even though I am working toward a Debt Free 2009, I will continue to use my credit cards as long as they continue to help me save. What about you? Take my poll above or leave me a comment with your thoughts on the credit card debate.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Apples Apples Apples

My in-laws live in rural Washington and they were kind enough to bring us two huge grocery bags full of apples a few weeks ago. I made applesauce right away and gave some to my folks but struggled to find something new and creative to make with the rest. Finally, this weekend I thought "Forget it, stick with what you know and what everyone likes best."

It's a nice variation on apple pie and I try to make several ahead of time and then freeze just before baking. It can then be pulled straight from the freezer to the oven if you make in an aluminum pie pan or other metal baking pan.

I give you: Apple Crumble Extraordinaire:

5-6 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tbls brown sugar
1 1/2 tbls flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup butter

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dry filling ingredients in a large bowl. Add apples, mix to coat and then arrange evenly in a pretty pie dish. Mix dry topping ingredients together, then add egg and mix with hands until mixture is combined into crumbly particles. Sprinkle over apple mixture and then pour butter evenly over topping. Bake for 30-35 minutes until topping is lightly browned. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

I love the recipe swap every Friday at The Grocery Cart Challenge and know that you will too. Go over and see what everyone is cooking this week! Your family and your tummy will thank you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's nearly the end of the year so I am starting to think about and plan my goals for 2009. One of those goals is to really get our overall finances and budget solidified. I am taking inventory of what has been working for us as a family and what we need to improve.

I am so happy to have discovered the online community that is so generous in sharing great deals, tips and shopping scenarios, which really can help anyone get a better deal on all purchases.

One of my goals is to be more like my husband in the way that he saves. He makes more money than I do, actual salary-wise, but because he sends such a big portion to savings and his company's stock plan, we end up taking home the same amount each month. With both my son and our new baby in full-time child care, my share of expenses has increased, so I'm hoping that with all the savings I am realizing by buying food and household goods on sale and with coupons, that I can also increase my savings.

A catch-22 situation arises however when I talk about increasing savings, I also need to decrease my debt. Said debt being my Student Loan. Yes, I have not been in school for nearly 9 years and I still have a crazy amount of student loan debt. I worked my way through college and did not take more than one $5000 loan, which actually helped me finish college earlier than I would have if I had not taken the loan. But law school was so unbelievable expensive, I could not avoid the loans. When I first graduated, I struggled to keep track of each one so I consolidated. Financially naive at that point in my life, I consolidated at the highest possible interest rate that they can charge - 8.25%. Now I make a little more than the minimum payment each month but it just doesn't seem to make a dent.

Somehow, in 2009, I want to be so fiscally conservative that I can pay it down to at least half of what it currently is - a lofty goal perhaps but without a goal, there is nothing to be working toward.

Do you have a goal, resolution or vision for the coming year? I'd love to hear what others are working toward, financially or personally!

Monday, December 15, 2008

$500 Walmart Giveaway

Who couldn't use a little extra money this holiday season? My heart strings are pulled every time I watch the news about the food banks and the kids in need. Makes me wish I could save a lot more each month so that I could have that much more to give.

Here's a giveaway that would make it so easy to give that much more:

Denise at The Centsible Sawyer is giving away a $500 Walmart gift card. Wow! I've got her link posted under My Fellow Frugal Sisters and she's always got great deals and ideas for saving money. There are lots of ways to enter to win but you have to do it by midnight Eastern time (9PM Pacific) so go do it! My husband always laughs at the contests that I always enter. I always respond that someone has to win, why shouldn't it be me?!

Menu Plan Monday

I know that I am going to need to do some serious grocery shopping before next week's big holiday so I'm holding off going until the end of this week if possible! Plus, one night this week my husband and I are going Christmas shopping so one less meal to plan -phew.
Here's this week's menu plan:

Cobb salad
Stir fry with potstickers
Chicken enchiladas
Swedish meatballs

I haven't linked to it before but check out orgjunkie.com for more awesome menu plan ideas! I always like to see what others are cooking up.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Target Trip

The Glade holiday scented oil candle deal is still working at Target and I was finally able to find a Target that had the candle holders in stock - woo hoo!
Here's what I got:
4 Scented Oil Candle holders $2.50 ea
2 Airwick Luminair Candles $4.99 ea
2 Reed diffuser sets on clearance (not pictured) $4.24 from $16.99!
Coupons used:
2 $2.50/1 Candle Holder Smart Source (I'm behind on my coupon clipping so not sure when these were in the paper)
2 $2/1 Candle Holder (found in the refills that I bought a couple of weeks ago)
2 $5/1 Luminair from SS
Prior gift cards used: $6.66
Total OOP: $4.91
Got a $5 gift card.
My original OOP ($9.25) seemed way high but I figured I was just miscalculating with the diffusers. Then I noticed on my receipt that the cashier actually charged me for a nail brush that the woman ahead of me bought - I couldn't figure out how my math was so off. So I went back and got a cash adjustment of $4.34. It definitely pays to keep an eye on the register although I'm not sure how I could have caught that mistake ahead of time.
I wish I had bought the other 4 candle holders that the store had because I hit 3 Targets today and none of them had any candle holders. I was going to get more refills but could only find 2 refills with the coupons in them. I'm going to try and hit at least one more Target tomorrow before this deal is done on December 15! Happy candle shopping!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Pears Appetizer

This is an elegant appetizer to bring to any of your holiday parties. Poached pears, flavored with cinnamon on a base of cream cheese and bleu cheese with chopped walnuts (if you like).

2 large pears, sliced
4 cups water
1 tbsp cinnamon

2 blocks of cream cheese, softened
1/2 container crumbled bleu cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Place water and pears into a large shallow pan and sprinkle cinnamon over pears. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until pears are tender (if your pears are very ripe, you may not even need the 15 minutes). While pears are simmering, put walnuts into small saute pan, heat on medium and toss the pan occasionally to evenly toast the nuts. Mix cream cheese and bleu cheese and spread into a shallow serving dish (I use a nice pie dish). Arrange pears over cheese mixture and sprinkle toasted walnuts over the pears. There are no walnuts in the picture because I forgot to take them with us! I also sprinkled a little additional cinnamon over the pears in the picture.

My girlfriends and I used to top slices of french baguette with this delicious-ness and eat as a meal. Can also be served with crackers or endive (a hoity-toity lettuce!).

I get nothing but raves from this dish - enjoy!

The Grocery Cart Challenge is where you can find delicious recipes every week for the recipe swap - thanks to Gayle for hosting it. She's got a great cookie recipe and gift idea this week - be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Target Gift Card Giveaway

I loves me some giveaways and Michelle over at Saving Some Green has got a most awesome giveaway right now - 3 $10 Target gift cards. Who couldn't use a little extra Green right now?

Michelle is on my list of fellow frugal sisters - I read her blog every day for great ideas on saving money, living simply and well.

Go and check it out - you'll be impressed!

Kroger Gift Card for Prescriptions

Fortunately, my husband and I and our children are very healthy and have no ongoing medical issues. None of us take any prescription medication on a regular basis. Howver, on the rare occasion that we do need prescriptions, I stay loyal to one pharmacy - QFC.

Why QFC? They have a pharmacy loyalty card that gives me a gift card to the store for every 5 prescriptions filled there. I filled a prescription there yesterday and since it was my 5th one filled, I got a $10 gift card to the store. The next 5 is a $15 card and 5 after that is a $25 card. I hadn't noticed before but it's actually a Kroger card so it will be good at Fred Meyer too!

I have seen the deals offering gift cards for transferring prescriptions but because of my health insurance, I do have to stick with certain pharmacies so those have not been an option for me.

So for those of you in the Northwest, this would be a great deal even for those who don't get prescriptions on a regular basis. Does anyone know if other stores offer similar rewards for prescriotions?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Walgreens Haul

My $24 in Register Rewards from November razor purchases was expiring today! So I had to go shopping. Problem was, I couldn't figure out how to get my purchase up that high - a good problem to have, right?!

Luckily, I saw these cool Gingerbread House kits for $9.99 each. We're going to our log cabin in the woods this weekend and these should make a great project for the kids. Here's the rest of what I got:

2 Pufs tissues w/WAGS coupon .89ea

2 3pk Scotch tape

1 Reynolds Wrap foil w/WAGS coupon .99ea

3 Jiffy Blueberry muffin mix w/WAGS coupon .39ea

2 Gingerbread House kits

Coupons used:

4 $6 Register Rewards

$1/1 Reynolds Wrap

$1/1 Scotch tape

I also had 2 .25/1 coupons for the Pufs but did not see that they were expired so those would not go through.

Total OOP: .35! I forgot that I had my rebate Gift Card with me so I just dug change out of my wallet. I will also get $2 on my rebate card for the Scotch tape.

2nd Transaction:

2 Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix .39ea

Total: $1.17 - paid with rebate card.
What a sweet deal!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I'm looking forward to a little break before the holidays since my work slows a bit during this time. Here is this week's menu plan:

Slow cooker beef stew
Chicken chili
Crab cake salad
Turkey noodle alfredo

I'm working on some fabuluous Holiday menu plans and my New Year's Resolution, a Debt-Fighting Plan for 2009 so check back this week!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Blog Award Thanks

I've been completely swamped at my work for the past two weeks so I completely spaced when Michelle over at Saving Some Green gave me blog award! I now offer a sincere albeit belated THANK YOU!

SSG's got great money- and time-saving ideas that I love to read every day and has been an incredible inspiration to me. Head over there to check it out!

Turkey Divan

This is one of my family's favorite post-Thanksgiving dishes. I've also made it with chicken instead of turkey. It's another scrumptious and somewhat healthy way to use up some more of your turkey and stuffing leftovers:

1 bag frozen broccoli, either chopped or just the florets
2 cups turkey, torn into pieces
1 cup low or reduced fat sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup stuffing
1 cup cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Spread the bag of broccoli and turkey in a 9 X 13 baking pan. Mix together sour cream, mayo, salt/pepper and then pour over broccoli/turkey mixture. Sprinkle cheese over it all and then top with stuffing. You can also substitute bread crumbs for the stuffing. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes until heated through.

Gobble Gobble!

The Grocery Cart Challenge hosts the best recipe swap every week - go over there to find more fabulous and delicious ways to feed your family!

Monday, December 1, 2008

$10 in Coupons with the Pillsbury Newsletter

I usually prefer to make my own pie crusts, pizza dough and other bread but since I am a working mom I sometimes have to go the easy route and use pre-made dough. That's where Pillsbury saves me! Their newsletters have easy time-saving recipes and fun meal ideas. Sign up here for the Pillsbury Newsletter and you'll receive $10 in free coupons for their products:

Thanksgiving Bakes

Have a lot of Thanksgiving leftovers? We did and every year I try to come up with something new to do with them all! I'm not sure why, but this year I had a lot of the green bean casserole left and that was even after I sent all guests home with some. These little dishes are a little bit of everything from your Turkey feast. I thought it would be cute to put them in these little ramekins but you can make it on a bigger scale in a casserole dish.

I sprayed the ramekins with a touch of Pam just to prevent sticking. Then add chopped turkey:

Then add some green bean casserole. It's already got mushroom soup mix and milk that will blend nicely with the turkey:

Then I topped them off with mashed potatoes and a really delicious artichoke stuffing that my Dad made from a Sunset magazine recipe:

Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes. I added some cheese to the tops - it was fabulous. The stuffing got nice and crunchy on top. This is a delicious way to use up some leftovers!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

JD Pecan Pie

*Photo by Josh Weisberg

Have you ever noticed that people have their "things" for the holidays? "Things" are something that a person absolutely has to have on that particular holiday to make it feel like that holiday. My brother-in-law John is originally from Alabama and his "thing" for Thanksgiving is Pecan Pie. So I learned how to make a killer Pecan Pie for him! It's so easy and the ingredients are usually on hand but I have to admit, I really only make it once a year. Although this year, I'm hoping to make it more often because it's just so good.

3 large eggs

1 cup corn syrup

2 tbls butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup Jack Daniels whiskey

1 1/4 cups pecan halves

1 pie crust - I make a couple of whole wheat at a time and keep in the freezer but you can use the premade ones

Beat the eggs slightly then stir in corn syrup, sugar, butter, vanilla and JD. Pour in to pie crust and arrange pecans on top. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes until pie is set - it shouldn't jiggle when you touch the pan.

I have also used chopped pecans, not as picturesque a pie but tastes just as good. This year I got really creative - used extra pie crust and a mini leaf cookie cutter to decorate the pie edge.

**Thanks to Josh Weisberg for the awesome photo - that is the actual pie we had on Turkey Day!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Walgreens Haul

I've been super busy at work this week plus trying to get everything organized and prepped for the big Turkey Day Feast at our house so posting has been a little tough. I've found time to shop though and have been raking in the Walgreens deals!

Above is the shopping trip from Saturday.

Just for Men - A Touch of Gray
Crest Spinbrush
4 Christmas cookie cutters - 2/$1 - filler items

Coupons used: $2/1 Touch of Gray, $3/1 Crest Spinbrush
I had trouble with the Spinbrush coupons - the store coupon would not work, but the employees could not find the right brush for the coupon. Then the manager came to help and said she would let me use the coupon with the one I had since they couldn't find the right ones. But then she wouldn't let me use the $2/1 manufacturer coupon because "you can't pay nothing for it." That struck me as funny - a few months ago I may have agreed with her, but now I know better.

Total OOP: $1.34.

Plus I will get a rebate on the JFM. Not clear on whether they will send me $8 or the price I paid but I also got $7 register rewards so a profit, either way.

This is my Tuesday trip:
2 rolls Basic Bounty paper towels (2@ .89)
2 boxes Kleenex (2@ .89)
1 Sure deodorant
4 Venus Embrace razors
1 roll invisible tape
1 box Oven Crisps
1 bag Cheetos Puffs (not shown - ha ha because they have been eaten by my 4 yo!)

Coupons used: 2 .25/1 Bounty
.40/2 Kleenex
4 $4/1 Venus razors
$1/1 Sure deodorant

Used $7 RR from the JFM purchase. Total OOP: $22.20. Got $24 in RR back for all the razor purchases. Wow!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

We have a lot to be thankful for this year. I hope you all enjoy your holiday and are spending it with those you love. Travel safely and don't eat too much!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend Shoppping

My 2-Week Menu Challenge was a fun way to try and use what we had in our freezer and pantry. I even went another whole week after it, buying only milk and bananas. But with us hosting Thanksgiving this year, I knew we'd have a big trip to make and I really wanted to take advantage of all the good sales at Albertson's and Fred Meyer. Glad I did, too because from this week's ad it looks like some of the prices have gone up. Here's what I got:

Albertson's had the Lipton soup mixes and Green Giant Veggies on sale for $1 each. JollyTime Popcorn was on sale for 3 for $5. I had 2 $1/1 coupons and 2 $1.50/1 coupons for the popcorn, 2 $1/1 for the corn and .75/2 for the soup. Total before coupons: $16.00; total OOP $8.25. BUT will get $10 in Albertson's gift cards as rebate for the popcorn purchase - can't beat that!

Fred Meyer was a different ball game - we needed quite a bit of stuff for Turkey Day, including 2 turkeys. We roast one regularly and deep fry one (check back for lots of turkey recipe ideas for all those leftovers!). I get a large turkey to roast and then a smaller one for frying. FM had a coupon that gave you a certain reduced price on a turkey when you spend a certain amount - so I spent at least $50 and got the second bird for only .59/lb.!

There were only 5 items that I did not have a coupon for: Kroger brand crescent rolls, Kroger brand cheddar cheese, organic milk, bleach and the Butterball turkey.

3 Kroger crescent rolls $1.50 ea
1 Rhodes rolls $3.50
1 Rhodes cinnamon rolls $3.50
2 Fresh Express bagged salad $2.99 ea
4 packets Fleischmann's yeast
4 boxes Quaker instant oatmeal $3.18 ea
1 Pillsbury crescent rolls $2.79
1 can French's Onions $3.00
4 cans Campbell's soup $.66/.67 ea
4 Hillshire Farms Lil Smokies $3.00 ea
1 Everyday Living bleach $1.29
2 Gallons Naturally Preferred organic milk $4.99 ea
1 18.56 lb Butterball Turkey $23.94
1 13.41 lb Private Selection Turkey $7.91

Total before coupons: $123.89.

Used $12.30 in manufacturer coupons, $14.96 in store coupons and $5.00 in Fred Meyer rewards. Got $2 in Catalinas for the yeast - it's still working!

I still have to get green beans since Albertson's was out and I got the corn instead. Overall, not a bad trip, this and the leftovers should keep us comfortable!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cucina! Cucina! Chop Chop

The weather has turned cold and rainy and all we've been eating are soups and stews. Delicious and warm? Yes. But sometimes the rain gets me down and I just want to eat like it's summer again!

This is my favorite summer Chop Chop Salad. It's quick to assemble and most importantly, everything can be chopped up ahead of time.

1 head iceberg or romaine lettuce, chopped into small pieces
1/2 can garbonzo beans
5 slices of salami, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 can chicken - or whatever you have leftover
1-2 roma tomato (2 if they're small)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2-3 sprigs fresh basil, also chopped

Put chopped lettuce into bowl and layer other ingredients in order. If you really like garbanzos add the whole can. If I have tahini, I usually turn the rest of the can into a tasty hummus, which can be served with pita bread or chips along with the salad.

1 garlic clove
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 cup vinegar - I like balsamic but red or white wine varieties will work well
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt, pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning blend - mine is McCormick and it lists marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano and basil

Using a garlic press, squeeze the clove into a container that you can seal and shake. Add mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper and seasonings, then add the olive oil. Shake the container vigorously until dressing is combined.
If you like a creamy dressing, add 1 tsp mayonnaise with the mustard.

We don't like a drenched salad, so if there's too much dressing you can always store it in the container in the fridge for another salad venture. Just let it sit at room temp for 15 minutes and then shake again to reincorporate.

Can't you just taste the sunshine?

The Grocery Cart Challenge hosts the greatest recipe swap every Friday - Prego! (Not pregnant, "Thanks" in Italian!)

Kudos to Target

I went to Target yesterday to get the Enfamil Lipil formula that is on sale for $24.99. When you buy 2 you get a $5 Target gift card. I had 2 $5 "checks" from Enfamil and 2 $2 off coupons from recent inserts that were coupled with a $10 rebate offer on 3. While shopping, I also happened across an endcap with the Glade Scented Oil Candle deal - buy 4 Holiday Scents and get a $5 gift card.

The cashier rang the formula first, gave me the 2 gift cards since I was purchasing 4 cans of the formula and then gave me the 3rd gift card for the candles when she rang those through. I handed her my coupons, which she started to ring through but when one of the $2 off formula coupons beeped, she questioned whether she could ring it through since it was a promotional item. She called the supervisor over and he told us both that coupons were not allowed on these promo items, which, to him, was confirmed by the fact that the register wouldn't ring them through without beeping. The store would not take any coupons except the 2 $5 "checks" from Enfamil. I responded that I had done these deals before with coupons and without a problem but they would not budge. I was on my way back to work and didn't have time to escalate to another manager so I paid and went back to work.

Now that I know how great these deals are and how it is supposed to work, the lost deal was nagging me. I called Target's customer service line and spoke with a great agent, Dell. I explained the situation to him and he was overly apologetic, that the store was absolutely wrong on this point. He asked what the value of the coupons were that the store would not take and said that he would send a $10 gift card to me for my trouble!

This is an example of a company that wants and appreciates my business and understands the value of us coupon shoppers! Thank you Target!

Do Something For Others This Holiday Season

under tree girl 125x125

Not only has work been crazy this week, I've also been fighting a cold. I haven't stopped reading, however and that's how I discovered what I think could be one of the coolest holiday season giveaways.

The gals at 5 Minutes for Mom are hosting a ton of holiday giveaways and all you really have to do to enter is leave a comment on the giveaway that you want to be entered in. That's what I was doing when I discovered that not only are they giving a ton of stuff away, they are also accepting nominations for families in need to receive some of the same products from the companies providing the prizes. What a great opportunity to help a needy family have a memorable holiday! Well, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Walgreens Haul

I'm a total newbie to the Drugstore Games so I was extremely excited to get my first Walgreens Rebate Gift Card in the mail this weekend! Since my purse was stolen (see this post here if you want to read my post-theft lessons)and I was stuck with no credit cards, I was really hoping it would arrive in time for me to take advantage of some of the deals I'd been reading about. Here's what I got:

2 cans Libby Pumpkin
2 cans Carnation Evaporated Milk
2 boxes Kotex 64 pantyliners (not pictured)
2 boxes Kellogg's Speciak K
1 box Kellogg's Smart Start
1 box Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats
2 Nabisco Graham Cracker Pie Crusts
1 package Pampers
2 containers Coffee Mate Vanilla Creamer
1 Almay Mascara (not pictured)

Total Before Coupons: $58.72
Walgreens Sale Items: -$11.58
Walgreens Coupons: -$8.10
Manufacturer's Coupons: -$11.49

I used a BOGO coupon for the cereals and even though they were on sale for $2.50, the register took off $3.99!

Paid $19.80 w/gift card, spent $7.75 OOP, got $4 RR and a coupon for .75 off Kellogg's Smart Start cereal. I will get $6.99 in rebates for the Almay mascara.

I read on some other blogs that there was a rebate for the cereal out from New You magazine but the KMart I went to did not have it. So I went on Hot Coupon World and traded a rebate for some Amy's Organic coupons that I got from Fred Meyer. SO now I'm also getting $10 back from Kellogg's ~ I love this game!

I'm going to Fred Meyer, Target and possibly Albertson's today so we'll see how we do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2 Week Menu Challenge COMPLETE!

Grocery Money Spent: $0 - I did it!

Here are the rest of the week's meals:

Thursday - leftover Rogue Chicken Soup
Friday - Dinner at some friends' house

This Challenge really wasn't that painful and I learned how to make do with what I have on hand. Even after the challenge, due to other obligations that we had yesterday I did not really have time to put together a shopping plan or menus for the week. So I looked in the pantry and determined that we really only needed milk and bananas. I am going to try and keep going this week because I know that shopping for next week will potentially be expensive!

Grocery Money Spent after the challenge: $6.53.

This has also been a lesson that I have been spending too much on those daily shopping trips. Planning ahead seems to be the key!

Friday, November 14, 2008


is commenter #5 helen - congratulations!

Please email me your contact information within 48 hours so that I can get your 2-year subscription to Family Fun or Wondertime magazine to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered - I hope to have some more good giveaways soon~

Hard Lessons and the Bright Side

We live in what we consider a bit of a "rural" area, not a lot of traffic and generally considered a safe neighborhood. Yesterday morning I got in to my car to go to work and noticed that we forgot to close the garage door the night before. I then noticed that my glove box was open, which was strange because nothing but the owner's manual for my car and the car registration are in there.

I reached for my cell phone and it hit me then - my purse was gone along with my cell phone and the charger for my phone! It appears someone snuck into our garage, where my car was parked and simply took my purse and cell phone out of the car, which, since it was in my garage, was not locked.

I spent the morning racking my brain, trying to recall what was in my wallet and spent most of the day calling the bank and few credit card companies. I kept thinking to myself, it's a good thing I only keep a small number of credit cards in my wallet.

The lessons I learned:
1)Take my purse into the house at night.

2)Make sure garage door is closed and doors locked at night - my husband and I have both been lulled into a false sense of security in our neighborhood. We are also going to start locking our mailbox.

3)Photo copy of all the credit cards you have in your wallet - update this periodically and keep in a safe place. I plan to keep this in my office from now on. It would have been so much easier to have the actual list than trying to rely on my memory for who to call.

4)You can sign up for a Fraud Alert to be placed on your credit reports for free for 90 days. You only need to notify one credit reporting agency and they will notify the other 2. Go online to annualcreditreport.com for more information.

The Bright Sides:
1) Register your Starbucks Card. I use a Starbucks Gift card to keep me from overspending at the coffee mecca. I load a certain un-named amount on it every month to keep my budget in line. I also registered it through the website. I called them to report it stolen. They determined that it was used yesterday morning and told me the location, which made me feel better that these theives do not likely live in my neighborhood. They de-activated the old card and are issuing me a new card with the balance left on it after the thief used it.

2) There are honest people out there. A woman very near our neighborhood called yesterday afternoon because she found my purse and wallet in her driveway. It seems the thief took what he/she wanted and just dumped my purse. Luckily, my driver license was still in my wallet. Most of the other important items were missing but I'd already canceled them all anyway.

I am thankful that the thieves did not get much, nothing irreplaceable and we learned some lessons that will hopefully protect us from this happening again.

Grocery Budget Update

I noticed particularly in October that I did some deals at Safeway for Kleenex and Albertson's for Jet Dry. Those are not products that I usually purchase at a grocery store, but because they had the great Catalina promos running with them, I got the products and then got ONYO coupons to use toward groceries.

I don't do every deal that I see, especially if it's products that I won't really use and even if it is completely free. I find that just creates more clutter in my house until I can figure out where to donate those products.

Here's how we did for October's budget:

October $83.62 + $72.29 (September carryover)= $155.91 - $106.00 = $49.91 (carryover for next month)

Still within my goal! I am hoping for some really good pre-holiday sales so that I can stock up on some staple items and continue to stretch the budget as far as we can make it go!

How are you doing on your budget goals for this year? Have you started planning for next year? I am already thinking about whether I should reduce the allowance for next year or if that's just flirting with disaster, especially with a new baby joining us in March. Well, I will decide and of course, keep you updated.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Chipotle Grill Carnitas Burrito Bol

The Chipotle Mexican Grill near my work is one of my favorite lunchtime hotspots. It's super delicious and depending on what you get, fairly healthy fare. Unfortunately, the one close to me has no parking! It's cutthroat-mall-parking-lot-at-Christmastime-vicious competition for any spot, let alone one close to the door. I have seen arguments over parking spots in the small lot that also serves the also popular Jamba Juice. Rather than risk my sanity on a daily basis if the lot is too crowded, I just find somewhere else for lunch. This lack of parking and an extreme craving for my favorite Chipotle combo led me to this creation:

2-3 lbs pork tenderloin
1 small onion, sliced
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup chicken stock
2-3 limes, juiced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt/Pepper to taste

Pat the tenderloin dry and season with cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Place in the crockpot with the onion and pour in the tequila and lime juice. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. If I am leaving it for more than 6 hours I will add an additional 1/4 cup of water or chicken stock to make sure the pork does not dry out. If you don't want to use the tequila* you could also use all chicken stock. I use forks to pull the meat apart and then let it sit in the juice while I prepare the rest of the dish.

*Don't be concerned about this tasting like alcohol - the alcohol cooks off throughout the day and you get a sweet-spicy meat.

2 cups cooked white or brown rice
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups grated cheddar/jack cheese
Corn Salsa
Sour Cream

The corn salsa is really simple to make: I combine one regular size can of corn, one regular size can of black beans, 1/2 a small chopped red onion, 1 small chopped jalepeno pepper. Stir it all up, pour the juice from a lime over it and let sit for 15 minutes.

To assemble the "bol:" Take 2 scoops of rice and top with pork, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream and top with shredded romaine lettuce. If you are watching your carbs, skip the rice and put the lettuce down first instead.


As always, thanks go out to Gayle from The Grocery Cart Challenge who hosts an awesome recipe swap every week. I always enjoy seeing what others are cooking - a great inspiration for trying new meals!

2-Week Menu Challenge Update

Grocery Money Spent: $0

I still have not gone to the grocery store!

Even with Monday's husband-induced snafu and before that, Saturday's birthday present trip to Fred Meyer, I have held the line. We are running low on milk and cheese. We probably wouldn't be running low on milk but I didn't buy creamer for my morning coffee before the challenge so I've been using the milk instead. My son wonders aloud what it would be like to taste the soothing flavor of his beloved bananas again in the morning - your time will come, son!

What we've had so far:
Monday - rogue Chicken Noodle Soup
Tuesday - Fish tacos
Wednesday - Honey-Apple Pork Tenderloin

We've still got leftovers from last week's lentil soup and a lot of other options for the rest of the week. I am confident we can get through this challenge!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Frugal Healthcare Management - Part II

Here are more tips on how to do your part to keep healthcare costs down:

3) Review your Explanation of Benefits. Most people don't. Check service dates and service provided. If they don't jive with what happened at your appointment or the dates are wrong, immediately notify your healthcare plan. They can then make necessary adjustments or contact the doctor/provider for additional information. I have caught several mistakes by both provider and insurance plans that would have cost someone money - remember that in the long term, "someone" is YOU.

4) If you do get sick, use services wisely. We've made trips to the emergency room but I think of that option as the absolute last resort. The moment I get a call from daycare that a child is sick, I am on the phone with our pediatrician for a same day appointment. Not only is the emergency room the most expensive form of care, think about the amount of time that it takes to get treatment.

5) Take advantage of Flexible Spending Accounts. Tax benefits and plans differ, but generally your employer deducts a chosen amount from your paycheck and then when you need to, you use those funds to pay for out of pocket health expenses or deductibles. My husbands health care provider offers this option which they tout as another good option for healthy people.

6) Our dental plan provides a certain amount of coverage each year and at the end of the year, our dentist is always sending us reminders to "use up your allotments." He wants us to come in for additional services to "use it up." We don't agree with this attitude and frankly, we get really irritated that he tries to solicit us like this. Now, I know it's his way of trying to generate additional business but this is part of the reasons costs increase: people use services because they are there, not necessarily because they need them.

These are just my opinions on how to cut costs for what is arguably one of the most pressing issues in our society. I'd love to hear your healthcare savings ideas - leave me a comment and let me know your ideas!

Family Fun or Wondertime Magazine Giveaway

This week I am giving away your choice of a two-year subscription to either Family Fun or Wondertime Magazine. Both are considered great family magazines with parenting advice and fun projects and crafts to do with your kids.

To enter, leave me a comment. To receive additional entries, blog about this giveaway, link to this post or subscribe and then leave a comment that you did so. Please make sure you leave an email address in your post so that I can contact you if you win. Winner will be selected on Friday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Photo Contest

5 Minutes for Mom is sponsoring a Fun with Food photo contest that you can read about here.

This is one of my favorite photos of Michael, taken last year by one of our dear neighbors who had invited us over for an impromptu spaghetti feast.
Slurp slurp slurp! Yummm.

Free Sample - Kyolic

Yesterday I posted some frugal healthcare management tips here. I also linked to a post by Crystal at The Thrifty Mama where she offered some of her great natural tips for staying healthy through the winter. One of the tips she suggested was a garlic supplement called Kyolic.

Get a free sample of this supplement by calling 1-800-421-2998 and mentioning the ad from Fred Meyer's free magazine, Naturally Preferred.

Lots of Coupons from Fred Meyer

If you have a Fred Meyer near you, I highly recommend picking up the free Naturally Preferred magazine found in the Natural Foods section of the store. There is usually at least one and sometimes several great natural foods coupons in the magazine.

November's issue has 3 awesome coupons: $1/2 any Amy's Organic product, $1/1 Kashi Oatmeal or Hot Cereal and $1/1 Simply Organic 4 oz. Vanilla Extract. I will be watching to see if any of these go on sale - could be the makings of a great deal!

Monday, November 10, 2008

2 Week Menu Challenge Update

Last week my husband told me that he wasn't feeling well and wanted to go to Costco to get groceries to make chicken noodle soup. I explained what we were doing and told him he could make soup with what we have in the pantry or wait until the Challenge was done. I also sent the link to my 2 Week Menu Challenge post. Apparently, my husband does not listen, nor does he even read his own lovely wife's blog because I came home from work today to a large stockpot of chicken soup!! He went to Costco anyway! UGH - Challenge Foiled!

The soup was really good for dinner tonight though and best of all, I didn't have to cook... I'm still not going to the grocery store this week.

Frugal Healthcare Management - Part I

By day I am a labor and employment law attorney and part of my job is serving as a Trustee on health and welfare trusts that provide medical/dental insurance to all the participants. In that position I get a very real picture of the costs associated with funding a plan and providing the health services.

Two years ago, our health insurance plan (our firm is also covered through the plan) went through a major overhaul. Foremost was a mindset change - focusing more on staying healthy and preventive measures, even though it meant a temporary cost increase.

Based on this experience*, here are my first 2 tips on how to be a wise healthcare consumer:

1) Stay healthy. I know, I know - easier said than done. Statistics show that the unhealthy participants use the plan more and unfortunately less wisely. Overweight participants have more health incidents than participants who are at their ideal weight. Diabetes, heart disease and a number of other conditions result from being overweight. Getting participants to lose weight by offering things like a pedometer to help reach 10,000 steps per day is a great way to get people motivated. I have been wearing mine diligently and am so much more conscious of being more active even during my workday.

To help people stay healthy, we changed coverage for well-baby checkups, yearly physicals and some prescription medications to 100%. Additionally, the plan offered incentives to participants such as cash for filling out lifestyle surveys, the free pedometer mentioned above, and most recently tobacco cessation. The Quit Smoking campaign offers free nicotine patches, gum and $100 to participants who complete a certain number of personalized treatment sessions. If your plan offers these options, take advantage of them. Even if they are not paid at 100%, the costs are usually reduced from what you would pay in the open market.

If your employer is struggling with the rising costs of covering employees, it may be worthwhile to suggest to your HR department or the person in charge of your healthcare procurement that some of these changes be considered. The worst they can say is no and if some changes are made, it may be able to lower your employer's costs, which they can then hopefully pass on to employees!

I am a big fan of natural health care, using supplements and natural remedies as a compliment to traditional health care. Crystal at The Thrifty Mama had a great post here about keeping your family healthy the natural way.

2) If you are usually healthy, you can save money by choosing a lesser plan with a high deductible. This is often ideal for single employees or those without children. I do not recommend cutting back on catastrophic medical coverage but if you rarely need to go to the doctor, some of these plans will cover preventive services which would help you stay healthy.

What do you do to help your family save money on healthcare? Leave me a comment and check back for more money saving tips!

*This is not legal advice - just my opinion

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Free Entertainment + $1.17 for Dog Food

I had to take advantage of this deal since I was on my way to Fred Meyer for a present for a birthday party that we are going to on Sunday. Petco has Hill's Science Diet Dog Food on sale for Petco P.A.L.s members for $5.00. I printed a $5/1 coupon and paid only the tax - $1.17! I wanted to do more than one of these but even when I used another computer, it wouldn't print more than once. See the details of this deal at JANE4girls.

I have not shopped at a "pet store" for quite some time, since we usually buy the huge bags of dog food at Costco (100lb labradors eat A LOT!)so I forgot about this totally free entertainment for your kids. We watched the birds, the fish and then the "Lizard Wizard" came over and pulled out the snakes, lizards and turtles for us to pet. My 4-year old was enthralled! A great place to visit on a rainy day.

2-Week Menu Challenge Update

1 week down, 1 week to go!

Grocery Money Spent: $0

Our dinners this week have been:

Monday - Veggie Pizza
Tuesday - Chicken Parmesan
Wednesday - dinner at my parents' house!
Thursday - Sausage Lentil Soup (see my earlier post if you want the recipe)
Friday - Chicken Parm leftovers with spaghetti and ravioli

Here's next week's menu plan:

Fish Tacos
Roast Beef
Tuna Casserole
Spaghetti and meatballs

I got my Fred Meyer Rewards coupons and plan to use them for a birthday present today. I know I will be tempted to buy bananas - we'll see how that goes!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cucina! Cucina! Lentil Soup

I was never a big fan of lentils until I tried this soup at a Cucina! Cucina! restaurant. Sadly, the Cucina chain is defunct but since I love replicating my restaurant favorites, I knew I had to figure this one out. This is an awesome cold weather crockpot recipe that I prep ahead and just pour into the crockpot in the morning before I take off for work. I have used either chicken or italian pork sausage, both come out delicious. If I have it, I will also add chopped spinach for extra nutrients. For this soup, chopping finely is key - no one even realizes how many great veggies they are getting in this soup. I have also added a creamy option, which was how the original was served.

1 cup carrots, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
11/2 cups chopped spinach
11/2 cups dried lentils
1 lb sausage, chicken or italian pork
32oz chicken stock
1tsp dijon mustard
Red wine vinegar

Optional: Fresh Basil, parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half

Brown the sausage in a skillet, breaking into small pieces. Toss all vegetables into crockpot, add browned sausage, stock, mustard and 2-3 splashes of vinegar, salt and pepper (all to taste). Cook on low 8-10 hours.

Creamy version: After cooking on low for 8-10 hours, add 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half and turn heat to high for 30 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkling of chopped fresh basil and parmesan cheese.


Grazie to The Grocery Cart Challenge for hosting a terrific recipe swap every Friday!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gnu Food Bar Giveaway

Check out The Thrifty Mama for a cool giveaway of Gnu Foods Flavor & Fiber Bars. These nutritious bars have 50% of your recommended daily fiber and come in 5 delish flavors. They have no cholesterol, trans fats, refined sugars (except the chocolate one) and none of my personal pet peeve ingredient: high fructose corn syrup.

Thanks for a great giveaway!

Free Shipping Alert!

Today Only - Bath & Body Works is offering free ground shipping on ANY order. Need to get some Christmas shopping in? They have some good sales right now and lots of Halloween stuff that you could stock up on for next year. Additionally, if you spend $30, you will get $10 off a future purchase.

If you want to take advantage of this deal, leave me a comment with your email address and I will forward you the email that you must click through in order to take advantage of this deal.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What have you got for me lately?

These are the free samples that I have received recently. Walmart is to thank for the diaper and baby bath products. GoodNites and Bear Naked granola came directly from those companies. I'm not positive where the Venus razor came from -I've signed up for so much free stuff that I can barely keep track of it all!

You can still get the granola here!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Enjoying my free Starbucks!

I am sitting at my desk, enjoying my free Starbucks right now and debating about whether to go to Ben & Jerry's for free ice cream after I pick the kids up from daycare. Is the line going to be unbearable? We have our "I voted" stickers firmly attached to our shirts!

2-Week Menu Challenge

An update on my 2-week menu challenge - THIS is HARD!! You can see the frugal blogs I follow and it is so difficult to read about the great deals, knowing that I won't be taking advantage of them for 2. whole. weeks??! The Albertson's deal is especially killing me! You can read about it here, here and here.

But, we are doing absolutely fine even though I don't have any bananas. If I were to stock up before doing this challenge again, that's the one thing on my list because of course, that's what my four-year-old asked for yesterday morning! On Sunday, my parents were over to help me with the kids and my dad did some little house projects for us so we fed them the meatloaf on Sunday night. Bonus is that they invited us to dinner for Wednesday night, so I didn't have to find a substitute for the meatloaf night - phew! I'm waiting for my veggie box tomorrow to plan Week 2. Check back for the rest of the plan and how we're faring.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

2 Week Menu Challenge

I started this blog because I was really inspired by all of the cool frugal women that are out there helping each other save money, get free stuff and give back to communities. I have been following some of the women who have challenged themselves to live on and/or spend less on groceries than they thought they could.

So I decided to try my own challenge - the 2-week Menu Challenge. I want to see if I can plan and make two weeks worth of dinners using only what I already have in my pantry/freezer.I keep a well stocked pantry to begin with, something I probably inherited from my grandmother, who was definitely a depression-era frugal momma in her own right! So I want to use what I already have, without buying anything at the grocery store. That's where the challenge will be for me because I have discovered that the reason I often spend too much is that I shop on the way home, decide what's for dinner and then buy it - whether it's on sale, whether I have coupons or not. Not exactly the frugal way - but often the way of the full-time working mom. I want to plan ahead, use what I have and restock when things are on sale or I have coupons.

What are you going to do about produce, you ask? We subscribe to a local CSA program that provides us with a small box of organic fruits and vegetables every other week and this just happens to be that week. So I should be good. I didn't stockpile in advance of this attempt although I did assess that I had enough milk to keep my 4-year old satisfied.

Here's the menu plan for week 1 (not necessarily in order):

Chicken parmesan
Sausage Lentil Soup
Fish Tacos

I made the meatloaf and chopped up the soup ingredients so I should be able to just throw it into the crockpot. I took out the chicken for the parm and the dough for the pizza.

I have to admit that when I started reading the sale ads this morning, I had to just put the Fred Meyer one down and step away - telling myself that I can't care about what's on sale this week because I'm not going shopping!

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Version: PF Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I really like going to PF Chang's - usually for lunch. My colleague and I often will just order a meal of appetizers and one of our favorites is the Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I tried making them at home and they were immediately my husband's new favorite meal. They are easy to make ahead and easy to prepare.

I don't think Chang's has vegetables in theirs but I add them for nutrition value and since I grate them pretty finely, I don't think my husband even realizes that there are carrots in there.

***Warning - raw meat discussion ahead for those averse to such talk. I use chicken breasts for this recipe but plan on experimenting with buying less expensive thighs and just taking the meat off the bone. Not sure if this is more hassle than it's worth but willing to give it a try since it all just gets ground up in the food processor anyway.

Note about sauce-y-ness: This sauce can be thickened with corn starch if you like a thicker sauce. We like topping variety with this dish, often using Thai chili sauce (Srichi) and Mae ploy sweet chili sauce for the wraps so I tend to keep the main sauce level low. If you or your kids don't like so spicy, you can do more of the simple soy sauce. You can also do the sauce that they do at PF Chang's: soy sauce with spicy chinese mustard and chili paste.

Make ahead tip: If prepping veggies for another meal, I will cut additional carrots/celery/onion and put them in the fridge to make this meal. If I drag out my old school (seriously, it's circa 1980) food processor for whatever, I will prep the chicken/chestnuts, add the soy sauce and let it marinade overnight.

2 chicken breasts

1 small onion, finely diced

1cup carrots, shredded or grated

2 celery stalks, finely diced

1can water chestnuts

1 1/2 tbls wok or other vegetable oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tbls red pepper, or less if you like less spicy

1 head iceberg lettuce

1 cup chow mein noodles

Cut chicken breasts into medium pieces, place in food processor and process until meat is coarsely ground. Add can of water chestnuts and process until combined and chestnuts are ground. Heat oil in a wok or large sauce pan over med-high heat. Add chicken mixture and saute until meat is no longer pink, breaking up any large chunks. Put chicken into a heat proof bowl and set aside. Add remaining 1/2 tbls of oil to wok/pan with onion, carrot and celery. Cook until just soft, then add chicken back to the wok/pan. Pour soy sauce over mixture and simmer 5 minutes.

While chicken is simmering. Separate individual lettuce leaves and wash over a colander or put in a salad spinner. Place individual leaves on a platter and put chicken mixture into a bowl. Assemble wraps by putting chicken mixture on to lettuce and top with sauce and chow mein noodles. De-lish!

Grocery Cart Challenge hosts a great recipe swap every week - thanks for the wonderful ideas!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Winner of the Shape Subscription

is honey! Congrats!

But you didn't leave me an email address - doh!

Please email me with the name and address of where you want your subscription sent and I'll get that crackin' for ya :)

Thanks to everyone who entered and keep checking back for more awesome giveaways.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Style Find - Steve & Barry's

For those of you who don't know me IRL - I had a baby this summer in June. So I spent the majority of the summer in maternity clothes because although I lost some weight immediately, not everything was back into its pre-pregnancy place. Maternity clothes were just quite comfortable.

When September rolled around and it was time to go back to work, maternity clothes would no longer work. I had two, maybe three outfits that fit me and looked presentable for an office environment. Since I had lost some more weight, but not all of the baby weight, I also didn't want to spend a lot of money on clothes that will likely be too big for me by next year. Lucky for me, I found a store called Steve & Barry's. www.steveandbarrys.com

I had seen the advertisements for Sarah Jessica Parker's Bitten clothing line but had no idea that this store was near me. Even more surprising was how affordable it is - or can be, depending on what store you go to - more about that below.

I was able to get some really cute pants by Bitten by SJP for $8.98! No, that is not a typo, wool dressy, office suitable pants for $8.98. I think it costs me more to have them dry cleaned than what I paid for them. I also got a really cute black wool sweater - also $8.98.

Now the pricing at the store I went to got me all excited because this store had signs all over it - "nothing over $9.98." Later, I went to a different location, hoping to score some more great clothes and it was not meant to be - the other store was significantly more expensive. My same wool pants were $21.98. I asked the cashier if she knew why there was a difference and she had no idea. I was in between meetings so did not have time to contact the manager for further insight as to the vast pricing differences.

I plan to go back to the "nothing over $9.98" store, which for those in the Seattle-area is the Auburn Supermall location. Was this just a special sale or is that an outlet location? I will find the answers and report back on this. It is a smaller location than the Everett Mall location, so selection is not as vast.

The stores also carry a line by actress Amanda Bynes, workout-type clothes by Venus Williams, men's lines by surfer Laird Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Bubba Watson. They also carry children's, baby clothes and shoes. Check out the website for stores in your area - good quality, great style for a very reasonable great price!

Giveaway - Shape Magazine Subscription

Who needs to get in Shape? I've got something that will help - a two-year subscription to Shape Magazine!

Shape isn't just a workout magazine, it has lots of health news, recipes, beauty tips as well as fitness tips and advice.

Please leave me a comment to be entered to win this giveaway, blog about or link to this giveaway and then come back and let me know for an additional entry. Winner will be chosen on Thursday. Thanks for entering and good luck!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cooking Ahead Pays Off

I always try to make more than just one batch of certain things - lasagna is one of our family's favorite "Make-Aheads." It's really easy to make a really large batch of tomato sauce (with and sometimes without meat), cook a full box of lasagna noodles and super simple to assemble. A recipe note: I don't use the "no-cook" lasagna noodles because we prefer the texture of the cooked ones. It may be that my recipe is not super sauce soaked, which may be the difference. I have also used spinach in place of the zuchinni - both make this a pretty healthy dish. I originally planned to give one of these away so I used foil lasagna pans from the Dollar Store. You actually get 2 for $1. I price compared these at Target and it was .97 each so a good deal for these pans at the Dollar Store. If making just for us, I use a Pyrex dish and a cake pan. I usually try to stretch this recipe to make 3 pans.

I let them cool and then just put them in the freezer until we need one. Since the ingredients are fully cooked, it's really easy to just pop in the oven and cook quickly. On weekends like this one, where we decided last-minute to go to a potluck Halloween event, it really comes in handy! Here's my recipe:

1 box Lasagna noodles (you'll need 6 noodles for each pan so you may want to count)
1 28oz. can of tomato sauce
1 28oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 6oz. can of tomato paste
1lb ground turkey or beef
1 tbs minced garlic
1 small onion
Basil, oregano to taste
1tbs olive oil
1 27oz. container of ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 large zuchinni, grated or shredded
6 cups mozzarella cheese

Boil a large pot of water and add lasagna noodles, cook according to directions and then drain. While noodles are cooking, brown beef/turkey in skillet. Add garlic and onion and saute for 5 minutes. Then add tomatoes, paste, sauce and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes. In another saute pan, add olive oil and shredded zuchinni, saute until just cooked.
Empty container of ricotta into a bowl and stir in egg. Add zuchinni and stir together.

To assemble: Put a small amount of sauce in the bottom of the pan just so the bottom noodles don't stick to the pan. Lay 3 noodles down. With a spatula, spread a layer of the ricotta-zuke mixture on the noodles and then add another layer of 3 noodles. Cover the top layer with the tomato sauce and then spread two cups of the cheese on top. It really is that easy!

Cook at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly on top.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Omaha Steaks Offer Update

I placed my order with Omaha Steaks using the Geico Privileges offer on Monday. I've seen the posts that the deal is officially DEAD. Now, a new twist...I got this email today:

Thank you for shopping at Omaha Steaks! We appreciate your business andare confident you will be delighted with your order. We do show when placing this order, a special offer for a free item wascombined with the $25 reward card. As stated in all promotions for freeitems, offers cannot be combined. Your order will ship without the freeitem. If you have any questions regarding your order, please contact us at1-800-329-6500. We would be happy to assist you. Sincerely, Jamie ToledoOmaha SteaksCustomer Care Manager

So it looks like the free burgers, cutlery and cutting board are not coming...bummer. Has anyone else received this? Anyone tempted to complain? I'll admit that the lawyer in me is!! The website did not prevent the order as it could and should have. If fact, I tried to go through ebates and it would not let me place the order, giving me an error message that offers cannot be combined so they do have the capability to prevent the order. I also wonder if this had anything to do with the volume of orders they must have received once word of this deal was out! I hope I don't sound too bitter... bright side is that I got the 12 burgers for only $3.98 - still a pretty great deal!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Grocery Contest

I came across grainpower.org while reading Supermarket News - we get it at my work. They are giving away a year's worth of free groceries ($5,000 gift card) when you enter your email address.

Click on the "Saving Dough" link and you can print a coupon for .55/1 Orowheat bread - certain states are excluded from this coupon. There is another coupon through the same link for .55/1 Mrs. baird's Whole Grain White Bread - again, only good in certain states. We can never have too many coupons, can we?!

They also have brown bag lunch ideas and recipes and a cool calculator that shows you how to save money and calories by brown bagging it - check it out!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Walgreens Haul

Here is the haul that I got from Walgreens yesterday! A few items are not pictured because I kept them at work:

2 boxes of Ghiradelli Mint Chocolate Squares - found in the clearance bin for 1.49 ea

2 Lindt Excellence Chocolate Bars 2.59

1 box of Shout Wipes 2.50

1 bag of Brach's Candy Corn ('tis the season right? and I needed a filler!) .99

1 bag of Frito Lay peanuts .59 (filler again)

I used the Right @ Home coupons for the Shout, 2 Scrubbing Bubbles products and Windex. I had newspaper mfg coupons for the Ghiradelli ($1 off), Ricola ($1/2), M&Ms ($1/2), Lindt (B1G1 and .75/1)

I had $13.50 in Register Rewards from last week. Used a total of 2.42 in Walgreens coupons and $39.34 in mfg coupons for oop of only $13.18!! I'll get $17 in Rebates! I tried to use the Walgreens Ghiradelli coupon but the squares are not included as eligible for that coupon.

I have to say thank you to all of you out there - especially Money Saving Mom, Saving Some Green, and Common Sense with Money - this Walgreens thing is super fun and easy, once you figure out how to work it and I could not have done it without you!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Frugal Finds Giveaways

Carol at Frugal Finds from your Frugal Friend is celebrating her Blog-iversary this week with lots and lots of awesome giveaways. I am particularly excited about the Babylegs since the weather in the Seattle area has made a definite shift to fall in the last week. My 3-month old needs these! I also love the reusable grocery bags - I currently use a variety of different bags including a freebie from BECU (Boeing Employees Credit Union) and other canvas bags that were just lying around my house. It will be great to have a coordinated look when I go to the store!!
Go to her blog and sign up for these wonderful giveaways - good luck and thanks Carol!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sweet-Tart Pluot Crepes

My son Michael wanted pancakes this morning but I realized that we took our griddle on the boat this summer and did not bring it back. So I decided to make crepes instead. I like an egg-y crepe rather than a flour-y crepe so this recipe has a lot less flour than a lot of recipes that I have seen. The pluots were from our CSA box, Full Circle Farm in Carnation, WA. If you don't know, and I didn't until I started writing this and "blingo'd" it, a pluot is a cross between a plum and an apricot. I have been eating these almost all summer and did not know that. These pluots had a LOT of watery liquid with what seemed like very little juice but don't worry, it all cooks off and combined with the brown sugar, it makes a wonderful thick syrup. They are deliciously tart and combined with the sweetness of the crepes, make a savory breakfast for a Saturday morning.

Elizabeth's Crepes

1/2 cup flour

1 tbsp sugar

pinch of salt

3 large eggs

1 cup milk

Combine and whisk the dry ingredients. Mix in the eggs and slowly drizzle in the milk, whisking it all together. Batter will be very runny.

I use a non-stick small skillet and non-stick spray, heat on medium. Add about 1/4 cup of batter and swirl around the pan until batter coats pan evenly. Crepes cook very quickly, so using a small spatula, turn after about 20 seconds. If there's still runny batter in the middle of the crepe after 20 secs then you may need to turn your heat up a bit. Transfer crepes to a small plate.

Pluot Filling

3 small Pluots, cut into small slices

1 tsp butter

1 tbsp brown sugar

Place Pluots and butter in a small saucepan and heat on medium until simmering. Add brown sugar and simmer until sauce is thickened. Serve sauce on the side and let everyone assemble their own.

I also like to have small lemon slices for drizzling and powdered sugar for the crepes. Of course, my son thinks they are just a thin pancake so he likes regular maple syrup on his

How do you like your crepes?!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Free Sample - GoodNights Boxers

Still got a bedwetter in the family? We do! Luckily, here's a free sample of GoodNights "Sleep Pants." Just answer a few questions and they'll send a freebie.

Giveaway Alert

The ever sensible and oh-so generous Mercedes over at Common Sense With Money has an awesome giveaway of Kiss My Face for Kids products. Kiss My Face products are all natural, no artificial anythings and environmentally sound. Go over there and check it out!

The Bounty Slows but Continues Nonetheless

The garden has slowed production somewhat - we are pretty well done with green beans. The last batch were fat and not very flavorful. I checked them again just to be sure but there was nothing but a few stragglers, not worth picking even.
The carrot department has ramped up its area, however and these were good pullin! They are so sweet when compared to even organic store-bought carrots.
Talk about planning ahead - I started making mental lists last night of what to plant next year. Definitely zuchinni, definitely green beans. Corn may be interesting, although it seems to take up a lot of space. Spinach may be a better lettuce variety.
Definitely not regular tomatos. Sources tell me that it just doesn't get hot enough in the Seattle area to grow decent tomatos. My neighbor (who has fabulous fruit trees) suggested cherry tomatos and I remembered that I wanted to do those this year but could not find the plants at the nursery.
What I planted that didn't grow well - sweet peppers, cucumbers, lettuce. Peas grew but as I mentioned in a previous post, they didn't last long and didn't yield a whole lot. Overall, it has been a really fun project and I highly recommend it for everyone who is trying to eat more local foods - this is the ultimate in DIY!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back At It

Those of you who know me IRL know that I started back at work this week so I've been completely unable to pull a post together with any deals, freebies or any other good stuff.

I am hoping to be back up to speed next week and will post SOMETHING, ANYTHING for goodness sake!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Lemon Lavender Scones were the baking adventure upon which I embarked recently. We planted (ok, my mom did it - she plants, I reap) several different varieties of lavender last year and this year, including a couple that were labeled "culinary." I did not, however, keep track of which ones were which so I just guessed for this recipe.

I like to use a 1/2 and 1/2 combination of unbleached white flour and whole wheat pastry flour. I have a special place in my stomach for Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, it is a finer grained species of wheat flour. If you haven't tried this, I highly recommend it - much healthier for your family.

My original was not lavender-y or lemony enough so I modified the recipe so that more of the lemon and lavender flavor comes out. I glazed the scones with a lemon-powdered sugar glaze.

A word about flour prices: At my local Fred Meyer, prices for Bob's are actually comparable to the regular flour in the bakery section. This includes the bulk section where you can also find whole wheat, albeit not the "pastry" kind that Bob does.

Lemon Lavender Scones

1 cup flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 stick of butter (cut in small cubes)

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons lemon zest

1 teaspoon dried lavender

Preheat oven to 425. Place dry ingredients and butter in food processor and pulse until pea-sized lumps form. Whisk egg and milk together and stream into dry ingredients until sticky dough forms. Turn dough out onto generously floured surface and knead approximately 12 times. Shape dough into a disk about 1/2 inch thick and cut into wedges. Place wedges on baking sheet (greased if you like) and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Cool on rack
Mix 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar, 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice and stripe glaze on scones.
These are a great breakfast treat or perfect for an afternoon of tea with the ladies! Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Target Trip

Sorry for the late post but my internet guru (aka hubby) is not here to help so I had to fix it myself - phew!

Anyhoo, I went to Target this morning and want to say thanks to everyone for all the cool deal scenarios. It helped me really focucs my shopping. I got the Kashi waffle deal (no coupons tho - not sure where my Vocalpoint stash went) and the Luvs diapers. I shop Target a couple of times per week so I'm sure the gift cars will be put to good use pronto!

I also found another deal with the Vocalpoint Special K coupons that I received (when? who knows at this point, just found them in my coupon organizer). My Target has Special K bars on sale. A 6-pack is on sale for $2.75 per box BUT then I looked right next to those on the shelf and the 12-pack variety of bars is on sale for $3.79. Minus my $1 off coupons that means I got double the bars for ONLY $.04 more!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Giveaway: Burt's Bees Sample & Coupons

To celebrate my new blog I am giving away one of the aforementioned samples of Burt's Bees Milk & Shea Butter Body Wash as well as 2 of the $1.00 off coupons.

Please leave me a comment and one lucky commenter will receive this great smelling body wash sample and coupons!

Thanks for reading and good luck

Product Review: Burt's Bees Milk & Shea Butter Body Wash

One perk of being on maternity leave has been that I've been able to get in to Seattle, the city proper, more often than usual for shopping or whatever. While on the street the other day, someone was handing out free samples of Burt's Bees Milk & Shea Butter Body Wash. I happily accepted several free samples from the gal who was generous enough to give me several, which also came with $1.00 off (any full size product over $3.00) coupons attached!

The wash has a fresh, almost coconut-y scent, probably from the Shea butter. Most body washes are thick, almost shampoo-thick but this one is thin and light and rinses off clean. If you judge soap's ability to cleanse by its foam, this one will make you question how clean you are getting - it barely foams at all and only with much agitation. At $8.00 for 12 fluid ounces on the Burt's website, this will not likely become my regular soap but would make a great indulgence for yourself or as a gift!

*I'm not paid by Burt's but just reviewing product samples that I receive.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Food Deal: The Pain Au Chocolate (Croissants)

Chocolate croissants are a special treat around here. Partly due to the calorie and fat content (high) as well as the price (also usually high). Sold at Starbucks for about $2.95 per croissant or you can get 15 from Williams Sonoma for $39.95 (not including tax/shipping). That comes out to approximately $2.66 per. Unfortunately for your thighs, Trader Joe's has remedied the price issue!

These buttery beauties sell 4 for $3.99. Sold frozen, all you have to do is set them on your baking sheet the night before to "proof" or rise. Then in the morning, they bake in about 20 minutes. They are light, very flaky, with a good pocket of chocolate running through the middle - just like the ones you would get from a French bakery! Dee-licious
What are some of your favorite "luxury" foods and have you found them for less?
**I don't work for Trader Joe's or get paid by them. Just sharing my favorite food finds at a good price.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Free Ice Cream!

On September 25, from 5-8pm, Cold Stone Creamery is giving away a 3oz. creation. There are two "Make a Wish" combos to choose from: Nutter Butter ice cream mixed with yellow cake, Kit Kat candy bar and white chocolate chips or marshmallow ice cream mixed with 0reo cookies, chocolate chips and fudge. Mmmmmm - (cue Homer drooling sound)

Check with your local CSC to see if they are participating: www.coldstonecreamery.com

The line at my closest one is out the door on a regular day so I'm betting the line on this day will be wrapped around the block! If you know a secret one, go to it and enjoy!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Summer Harvest

Over the winter, after an awesome conversation with one of our cabin partners and inspired by Michael Pollan's writings, I solidified my plans to plant a garden. This is only the second time I've attempted vegetable gardening. I figured that since I would be on maternity leave for the WHOLE summer, I would have plenty of time to tend to this venture. Reality check was that I didn't even really have to "tend" it at all - it tended itself. Ok, my mom and Michael [DS] planted it when I was too huge to do it and she watered it most days but after that, the weeds have been minimal and easily pulled at the first sign. There wasn't much to do except let the harvest roll in.

Since we did not use any fertilizers or anything on this garden, I consider it organic.

We've had more zuchinni and green beans than we can count. Not so successful were the peas, which, according to my parents, peaked quickly and while we were on vacation. Romaine lettuce never grew quite as large as expected and did not yield but one good head, which we mixed with some store-bought for a fantastic Caesar salad.

Where are the savings you ask? Well, I looked at my local Safeway store and they sell organic Italian squash for .61 per squash. They don't list organic green beans except the frozen variety, which sell for $3.50 per pound.
Technically, if you add up the materials used to get the garden started, including the seeds and building the raised beds (thanks to my trusty and oh-so handyman husband), I'm probably not saving a lot this year. And I didn't add up my total yields for each vegetable. But let me tell you how absolutely THRILLED Michael has been to go out to our garden to watch the progression of the veggies as they have grown and now that we actually have something to show for it - as the cliche ad goes, "Priceless."

About Me

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Seattle Area, Washington - the state
I am an attorney, working mom of 3, who loves a bargain, a great deal and freebies. Who doesn't want the best, for less? Come here to see my triumphs and budget tribulations, good deals and my take on what the good life can mean...