Saturday, February 27, 2010

Coupon Promised Land

I check the clock: 8:38am. Am I too late? Can I still find a parking spot? Will there be a line around the building waiting for the free give-aways for the first 100 visitors? This is, after all, THE Knoxville Coupon Fair and all the savvy shoppers will be there! Coupon Katie's post on it had over a thousand hits. Everyone it seems these days has dropped any stigma attached to using coupons and is learning the fine art of getting free or nearly free products. I am strangely mixed with nerves and excitement.

Thankfully there is no line and I traipse right in to connect with my pal Coupon Katie. She's vowed to try cloth diapers since I’m giving her my infant stash. Go Katie! She has 3000 coupon books filled with savings on primarily pain medication leftover from the Health and Wellness Fair. She also has good handouts about coupon ethics and shopping at Target. She recommends if you're stacking coupons at Target to give the manufacturer coupon first and then the Target coupon, and her schedule for which days each department marks down goods is helpful.

Gabrielle Blake, who goes by Gabe and has the Couponing in Critical Times blog, is the primary organizer of the event. I love her posts about organics or homemade crafts. She has a great handout on how to start a coupon ministry at your church, synagogue or community program and where to donate goods. I have found that I'll get some freebies that I don't really need and this is a great idea of how to put our bargain skills to good use. Also from Gabe I learn that not every Sunday paper has coupon inserts, but you can see the schedule beforehand at She has a list of businesses and days that give special discounts for seniors; though this doesn't help me, I'm going to share this with my favorite Walgreens cashier Rusty who will be thrilled. If you'd like to meet Gabe, she's speaking at the Burlington Branch Library Monday, March 29 at 6pm about how to save 50-75% on your grocery purchases.

Jennifer Wilson, aka:, is happy to share tips on working the deals at Walgreens and CVS. Up to now I've only shopped at Walgreens. Now that I'm getting the hang of it, I might try CVS. She says CVS is easier. I like that CVS has the Green Bag Tag, which you attach to one of your reusable bags. For every 4 times you shop and scan the tag, you'll get $1 ECB (Extra Care Buck). I admire that they're rewarding green efforts. I also learn from her that CVS will take expired manufacturer coupons as long as the register doesn't beep (normally if they're just a week or two old) and that Walgreens works best if you scan the manufacturer coupon first and then the Walgreens coupons or register rewards. Her five-inch binder filled to hilt from the coupons she gets from eight weekly papers is intimidating, but she seems down to earth.

Hannah Barringer, a mother of six who feeds her family on $50 a week, is also here. She's probably the earthiest of the bunch, as she raises her own cattle and grows a lot of what they eat. I find her tip about United Grocery Outlets intriguing--places where you can find inexpensive and fresh organic foods and produce. There's one in Oak Ridge on the turnpike that I'll give a shot. You can also find "pick your own" farms at and I'll let you know if I find any great farms beyond the Fruit & Berry Patch.

I'm in awe of the hundreds of coupons people have brought in to swap. Most expire tomorrow but I pick up a few deals. And the freebie swap table is fun. I forfeit toothpaste, lip balm, and Excedrin for hand soap, a lint remover, and dental floss. I pick up four new cloth bags for my shopping excursions; I've become somewhat obsessive about no longer using plastic bags. One includes an emergency preparedness kit for Knoxville families. I get to spin the Chick-fil-A wheel to win a free chicken sandwich. Knoxmoms is giving away a dry erase board for menu planning and grocery lists. By far the best freebies are from Three Rivers Market, Knoxville's only food co-op: a yo-yo, Toms toothpaste, as well as organic pasta, granola bars, and kid snacks. I'm interested in trying it but it's out of the way for me; we'll see.

A number of women stop to admire my new coupon organizer I tote around like a Prada bag. I meet a number of other coupon bloggers including Knoxville on a Dime, Cheapknox, Living on More for Less, Frugalissa Finds, and East TN Rewards. I'm pleasantly surprised that no one seems threatened by yet another blogger giving tips to save money. We all have the same goal and all the women are happy to work together. I have no desire to be the source of the deals—just the messenger for being the guinea pig to try them.

As I get in my car, I can't suppress a smile about how fun it's been to become part of this community. I'm no longer an outsider looking in. It feels good to have found the Coupon Promised Land.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Last Firsts

One of the greatest privileges of parenthood is witnessing your child experience something for the first time. In the early months of life it seems there’s a new “first” every day. Even the somewhat mundane firsts can seem mystical to a baby. Sharing many of these moments has taken on special meaning lately, since it struck me Brooke’s firsts will be my last firsts.

When she’s eight months old, I begin the task of trying to savor each of her firsts as they happen. Pictures and video are important, but this time I want to really soak in the magic of the moments. In October Brooke rides on her first tractor, sees her first goat, agonizes over her first ear infection, spits out her first antibiotics, and dons her first Halloween costume. Then one day two more big firsts not surprisingly coincide: exploring a giant leaf pile and bathing in the big tub.

Once the large maple in our front yard has turned a beautiful crimson and begins dropping its leaves like jewels, it’s time for fall’s right of passage. The boys go right to work making the pile as high as possible. Though I place Brooke ten feet from the action, she b-lines her way to the center of the flurry. She doesn’t seem to mind leaves thrown in her direction or the feeling of the soggy mass beneath her. Brooke proves bold and inquisitive.

Playing in leaves is an autumn pass-time not to be missed but so is the bath afterwards. I admit poor Brooke has not had many baths yet since she’s only now getting into the messy aspects of life. We’ve bathed her in the blue bathtub in the kitchen sink up to now, but tonight I’ve decided it’s time for her new digs. I forget about bath toys or anything other than shampoo and her towel; she doesn’t know to miss them. The look on her face as she slaps the water is pure joy. She splashes with one hand, then the other, then in front of her. And the space…she can finally move in all directions and stretch out--Wow! Hey, what’s this shiny piece? Oh, hey Mom, you’re still here? Check this out! Splash, splash, splash. I’m watching her discover the properties of water for the first time; I’m not sure who’s more mesmerized—she or I.

The months march on and with them more last firsts. She feels real cotton in the field for the first time, meets her first cousins, touches her first snow, gets her first close-up of Santa, discovers the joys of unrolling toilet paper, tastes her first chocolate fountain, and revels in her first frenzy of Christmas morning. Each day she tastes a new food or texture--a whole new world beyond mushy apples and sweet potatoes. Her eyes delight with each new discovery and say, “What’s next? Bring it on!”

Unfortunately Brooke endures her first allergic reaction and overnight in the hospital as well. Watching a penicillin-induced roving rash and swelling virtually attack my baby is a first and hopefully a last for me. I witness her first look of betrayal as she realizes Mom has allowed yet another stranger in a white coat poke her. And I for the first time imagine how tragic it would be if she suddenly stopped breathing. For 24 hours I don’t leave her side.

Thankfully kids are so resilient and in no time, Brooke is back to checking off a long list of firsts. Eleven months of age is Brooke’s time to move from crawling to standing, from cruising to walking. Every day I’m trying to capture another mobile milestone but she’s wary of my camera. “I will not perform on cue!” her face reads. Honestly it’s hard to determine what actions “count” for walking. When she rocks back and forth with a slight shimmy forward…is that her first step? Does leaning for Daddy and bracing her fall with a step count? Does she need to take three independent steps before we can consider her “walking?” I’m just grateful that I’m here to witness her skills and confidence blossom.

Bob has a very different take on my sentimental journey of “last firsts.” He’s focused more on the “last lasts.” When is the last meal Bobby will limit himself to pasta, chicken, and baked beans? When is the last time Devin will wait too long to go potty? When is the last time he’ll wake up next to Brooke after Mom brought her into our bed to nurse? The last diaper, the last nap, the last…hey, I’m in no hurry for those things.

It seems developing skills happens so slowly at the time…until you look back at a year and wonder how quickly it disappeared. Turning another page on the calendar reminds me one of the biggest last firsts is upon us: her first birthday. Am I ready to kiss my baby good-bye and begin a new era with a toddler? Even if I’m not, what difference does it make? Her growing up is not something I can stop or even slow down. No matter how many photos or hours of video I take, I can’t freeze time.

Rather than get choked up about this reality, I focus on the fact that life always changing is one of God’s greatest gifts. Imagine if we were stuck in time, like an eternal Groundhog Day or 50 First Dates. It might be cool for a while but then it would become maddening. The song that plays in my head while I write this is Turn! Turn! Turn!: To Everything There is a Season by The Byrds. That song makes me smile remembering good times, infuses me with the strength and confidence that I can endure just about anything for a short time, and gives me hope that what is yet to come is even brighter than I can imagine.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

FREE is Good

I like to write about FREE. It's a word that deserves to be in all caps because it's that great. Even though saving money is good, the idea of getting something completely free is exhilarating.

This morning alone I got three freebies, all thanks to Coupon Katie. After dropping off Bobby at school, I swung by Chick-fil-A for the final free breakfast. Since there were three of us in the car, we got three chicken & biscuits (worth $6.15). The kids loved them, and though I rarely do fast food, I admit I liked mine too.

Then I stopped at a Pilot Food Mart for a free box of tea (worth $5) with this coupon which expires Sunday. I chose the Honeybush Carmel flavor that boasts high levels of antioxidants. For free, I'll try it.

Just down the road was a Walgreens where I scored big this week. With this coupon today you can get a free 8x10 in store only (worth $2.99). My picture of the family at Disney World will go in the front hallway and was ready in less than 10 minutes. I used my B1G1 Special K coupon and a $2.50RR I got last week to get two FREE boxes of cereal. I also used my coupon for a FREE box of Excedrin I earned here. Can't say as I use Excedrin but our school just asked for donations for the school nurse. Here you go.

Another good deal I got at Walgreens (though not free) was on Charmin toilet paper on sale for $3.49. I used a $3RR I earned from buying pull-ups two weeks ago and a $.25 coupon to get 6 big rolls of TP for $.24. This will be one of the receipts I submit to get $100 worth of P&G coupons. Even though I only spent $.24, I get credit for $3.49 and I'm almost to the $50 worth of products you need to buy by 4/15/10. Tip: The small cans of Hunts tomato sauce (only $.39 with the circular coupon) are a good way to keep the coupon/item ratio in check if you're trying to use two coupons on one product. All told I saved nearly $30 at Walgreens this week and only spent $3.18 (including tax).

On Saturday, I also scored a FREE full-size bottle of Lubriderm and Purell spray at Babies R Us. Since the $5 gift card I earned by becoming a fan on Facebook was going to expire that day, I stopped by. The Lubriderm was on clearance for $4.98 and the Purell was $1.98; I used my $2 Lubriderm coupon found here and got both for paying just tax: $.60. My mom who "wanted to see me in action" seemed impressed. And since Michaels is next door, I stopped in for mod podge to complete a craft for a belated Valentines present (using the FREE photo collage I made a few weeks ago no less). It wasn't on sale, but of course I used the 40% coupon Michaels publishes weekly.

On Tuesday, I plan to stop by Earthfare for the FREE pizza dough and cheese with this coupon. All you have to do is buy an Earthfare sauce, on sale for $2.50. Hopefully, they'll have some left.

And if you haven't heard of the Knoxville Coupon Fair on Saturday, February 27, that's going to be a great FREE event. Would savvy shoppers expect anything else?! I have lots of coupons to swap and am looking forward to meeting a lot of the women I've come to respect.

But perhaps some of the best freebies aren't found in any stores. Since we had a few extra minutes before dropping off Devin at school, we went outside to catch snowflakes on our tongues. Try doing that without giggling! We've had so much snow lately that I've almost begun to dread it, but going out this morning helped me remember what a beautiful gift snow is.

And once Brooke wakes from her morning nap, we'll have lots of free time to do what she likes best right now: walk. She can take some steps on her own, but we spend a lot of time with me hunched over, holding both hands, and following wherever she fancies. Yes, FREE is good.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Saving $ at the Pump

Always on the look-out for ways to trim my spending, I was excited about the new deal with Kroger and Shell stations. For every $100 you spend at Kroger (as tracked by your Kroger Plus card), you earn 100 points, which translates into $.10 savings per gallon of gaseline at Shell stations. We've been able to save gas like this for awhile at Kroger gas stations.

What's great about this promotion is that:
A. There are a lot more Shell stations around Knoxville than Kroger gas stations.
B. You get an additional $.10 savings for every $100 you spend. Since I had spent over $400 since the last time I gassed up using my Kroger card, I saved $.40 a gallon at the pump today. That was worth $7.20! I probably won't see that level of savings every trip, but now none of my fuel points will expire and I'll be able to save a lot more money than before.

I'll take this opportunity to give a few more tips for the best way to save money at the pump--consume less:

1. Don't drive out of your way to save a few cents on gas. Build it into your driving so that getting gas is always on your way to something else.

2. Cluster your errands in one part of town to minimize driving. I try to have two or three stops to drive somewhere. This is especially important with small kids in tow who only have so much patience for shopping.

3. Along those lines, build in fun for kids in conjunction with your errands: stop at the closest park on the way home, go to the indoor play area at West Town Mall, or treat the pet store like an outing to the aquarium (it works for young kids!).

4. Limit your trips for groceries to once a week.

5. Slow down and don't tailgate. Hey we all get in a hurry, but all those sudden accelerations eat into your gas bill.

6. When possible, walk. Unfortunately, that's not a reality most of the time where we live, but I like going to Market Square when the farmer's market is there and we can walk to a number of stores.

7. Pick at least one day a week when you don't drive anywhere. We call it Pajama Day for obvious reasons and Devin loves it!

8. Consider investing in an electric or hybrid car. There are some great incentives right now, $3400 for select hybrids and up to $7500 for electric. Within five years, we're hoping to power an electric or hybrid car with solar panels. Harnessing the energy of the sun to get me from point A to point B--how cool is that?! Until then, do what you can to conserve gas and save money.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

FREE Pillsbury Grands til 2/20

Having just returned from Kroger, you can still get Pillsbury Grands biscuits in the refrigerator section for FREE until Saturday, February 20. I'm still hoping they'll be some other great Pillsbury deals on Sunday, the last day for the $4 savings at check-out. Read on for details.

For the Grands deal, make sure you've loaded savings for this item from Shortcuts and Cellfire. If you did so a few weeks ago, you should have at least 3 $.30/2 esavings. Through papers and online sources, you can easily find a few $.30/2 coupons which Kroger doubles. This item qualifies for the $.30 savings if you buy 10 items; remember to buy exactly 10. Four Campbells Chunky soups are an inexpensive way to get to 10 ($.79 a can after doubled coupons from paper).

So here's the breakdown. Buy 6 Pillsbury Grands biscuits for $1.39 each. Esavers should save you $.90, coupons $1.80, the mega event another $1.80. For buying 6, you'll receive $4 off your next shopping trip at check-out. You've only spent $3.84 and you get $4 back. Not bad.

Another good deal if you're trying to get up to 10 qualifying items is the big box of original Cheerios. It's normally $4.49, on sale for $2.49. The mega event knocks off $.30, Shortcuts $.55, and a coupon another $.75. That brought the total to $.89!

And you can still qualify for the Ziploc $5 rebate and $2 catalina off your next shopping trip when you buy 3 products. I bought 4 boxes for $3.19 each and used 1 $1.50/2 and 1 $1/2 coupons. All the discounts bring it to $.82 a box. Just make sure you're willing to follow through with the rebate.

Friday, February 12, 2010

FREE organic chocolate truffles, rotisserie chicken, & photo collage 2/12 only!

If you're looking for a hint for the hubby or if you want to take the initiative to get yourself your own special treat, Earthfare can hook you up today, Friday, February 12 with a FREE box of organic chocolate truffles and a FREE humanely certified rotisserie chicken (saving you $14). The chicken deal is today only; you can get the truffles through 2/16 or while supplies last. Here's how.

With this coupon, if you spend $10, you get the free chicken (worth $8). There's two more coupons here for $1 off a lobster tail and $3 off a tenderloin filet if you want to go all out. It's not hard to spend ten bucks at Earthfare!

With this coupon, if you buy any floral purchase (I bought one red rose for $4), you get a box of truffles for free (worth $6 on sale, normally closer to $10). They have bunches of flowers for $15, but I went the less expensive route.

You can create your own 8x10 photo collage from the comfort of your computer and get it printed for FREE at any Walgreens through 2/12 (I think). Just enter the code "VDAY" at check-out. I did mine last night and can't wait to pick it up. They also have 15% off special items today only as well. Print out the coupon here.

Now I've got dinner, flowers, chocolates, and a gift at great prices. Happy Valentines. Pass it along.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Twitter Phobia

When I heard that "Tweet" was voted word of the year for 2009, I decided it was time to take my head out of the sand and finally check out Twitter. I knew it was a social media--one of the key ways news and ideas were spreading like wildfire--but I had really dragged my feet on this one. Peer pressure had led me to join Facebook a few months back; wasn't that enough? Why did I need Twitter?

The irony is that I've always been eager to educate myself on the latest in technology. We were one of the first families in the neighborhood to get Atari, the Apple IIE, and one of the first Panasonic camcorders with sound. Even though that video camera was a two piece behemoth weighing probably 20 pounds, I jumped right in at age 12.

I got my first email in college, was booking flights through that amazing tool they called the World Wide Web by age 22, and had one of the earliest versions of IMovie home editing software. Technology doesn't scare me. I'm open to the latest and greatest. Ok, maybe that's not the entire truth.

The truth is as I've gotten older, I've lost some energy along the way. I've lost some of that gung-ho gusto to figure out what it takes to work the latest widget or software. I've got three kids, I don't recall the last 8 straight hours of sleep I've had, and my mind is buzzing with "Did Brooke take her medicine? Do I have all the ingredients to make the class cookies? Is that really my dog in the front yard tearing into the neighbor's trash? Crap!" Who has time to Tweet?!

In between loads of laundry and cleaning up trash (yes, true story), I decided to stop making excuses and jump on board. It seemed fairly straight-forward. Messages had to be 140 characters or less and they'd let you know when your message...oops, my Tweets tend to be too long. And then there were all the questions I had: When I tweet, who reads it? How are random people I don't know now following me? Who should I follow? I think retweeting is like forwarding an email, but I haven't tried that yet. A fellow tweeter advised me that and will be my best friends for links. Huh?

But I'm happy to report that good things do come to those who crawl out of their comfort zone to try a new technology. Yesterday I picked up two dozen free cupcakes from Pimento's Cafe & Market for becoming a fan on Facebook and tweeting. That was just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week and the MOMS Club valentine party. Yeah!

I'm sure in time, I'll learn the lingo and not feel so old. Be patient with me. I'm just now getting the hang of this blogging thing. So, do you Tweet?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Take it From a Chocohaulic

I wrote the following for EvaMag a few years back and thought you might enjoy this as you're firming up plans for Valentine's Day. Make sure you scroll to the bottom to see video of our family's tradition: the chocolate fountain.

I eat chocolate every day. That’s right—every day! My name is Margaret, and I am a bonafide chocoholic. Join with me, “Hi, Margaret.” Now that I’ve come to terms with my addiction, I see the positive aspects as well. Over the years, I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of really good chocolate and am happy to share my knowledge to help you give the gift of chocolate for Valentine’s Day.

Though we are emerging from New Year’s resolutions to eat better and exercise more, I feel Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to splurge. I’d take a box of fine chocolates over flowers any day. The key is to buy a quality chocolate, like Sees made in California or Lindt from Switzerland. Don’t waste your time and money on cheap heart-shaped no-name imitators. Five fine truffles are better than 25 crème-filled impersonators of real chocolate. The ingredient list tells you all you need to distinguish pure chocolate from manufacturers that use fillers.

For a good variety of imported chocolates, check out Cost Plus World Market in the Turkey Creek shopping center. Knoxville can also boast Bradley’s Chocolate, Candy Blast, Mast General Store, and the South’s Finest Chocolate Factory for a variety of chocolates. I considered visiting all of them in the name of research but didn’t have time or spare room in my pants waistline.

For a special homemade touch this year, may I recommend the irresistible—dare I say sexy—form of chocolate. Melted chocolate in either a fondue pot or fountain can be a big hit as a romantic dessert for two, a party focal point, or a new family favorite. I first fell in love with chocolate fondue at The Melting Pot. Always save room for their dessert. Both pots and fountains can be found at major home retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond. (Don’t forget their 20% off coupon in most Sunday papers or mailers).

You can melt whichever chocolate you prefer: milk, semi sweet, white, or butterscotch. However, the instructions for the fountain recommend pure Belgian chocolate, high in cocoa butter. If you use chocolate chips from the grocery store, at least buy the better quality like Ghirardelli or Hershey’s. The store brands may not even list chocolate as the main ingredient. For the fountain, you’ll need 24 ounces (2 bags) of chips and ¾ cup of canola or vegetable oil; follow instructions in the manual. Fondue pots usually come with a few recipes in the back of their manuals as well, but it’s as easy as melting 2 bags of chips with 1 cup of heavy whipping cream. The key to both is heating the chocolate mixture gradually and stirring often, so as to not scald it.

There are no major rules for which dipping delicacies you choose, but some foods work better than others. My personal favorite is strawberries, but other good fruits are firm bananas, pineapple chunks, and canned mandarin oranges. Angel food cake is about the only cake firm enough to handle the chocolate; Pirouette cookies hold up nicely too. Of course, there’s also pretzels, marshmallows, peanut butter balls, and for the truly decadent--miniature Snickers bars.

Whichever chocolate path you prefer, I wish you well in your pursuit and preparation of quite simply the best food on earth.

Interesting Chocolate Tid-bits:

  • Chocolate residue found in several jars in Honduras from around 1100 B.C. is the earliest evidence of the use of cacao. It seems to have been part of an alcoholic beverage.
  • Xocolatl was a chocolate drink consumed by the Aztecs and associated with the Mayan god of fertility. Originally it was bitter and was said to be an acquired taste.
  • Centuries ago, chocolate was an important luxury good, and cocoa beans were often used as currency.
  • Christopher Columbus brought some cocoa beans to show Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. By the 17th century, chocolate drinks were luxury items among the European nobility.
  • The mid 1800’s saw the invention of the chocolate bar. Several candy makers throughout Europe began developing their own recipes, including the creators of Cadbury, Nestle, and Lindt.
  • About two-thirds of the world’s cocoa is produced in Western Africa.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

The History of Childbirth

Today NPR featured the author of a new book: Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank. Randi Hutter Epstein, a medical doctor and journalist, says that people have driven themselves crazy over childbirth over "hundreds and hundreds of years." And that while we've made advances, "someone is going to be laughing at us probably 50 years from now." Check out the full story and an excerpt from her book. I can't wait to pick up this book; looks like a must read!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Something out of Nothing

I love making "something out of nothing," finding value where previously there was none. During tougher economic times, this is exactly when we should return to the ingenious ideas of our grandmothers who were the original reducers, re-users, and recyclers. And when this "something" is tastier, healthier, and saves me money---well sign me up!

I'm fortunate to have my office right next to the kitchen because as I type this, a wonderful smell of baking bread is wafting to my computer. I'm turning the ends of a dozen or so sandwich bread loaves into homemade croutons and breadcrumbs. Since I don't care for the end pieces, I've been saving them for weeks in my freezer and tonight I'm trying new recipes.

Google "homemade breadcrumbs" or "homemade croutons" and you'll get plenty of suggestions. I chose this recipe for breadcrumbs because it looked easy, fast, and said I could store them in a cabinet for up to six months. Once the bread was defrosted, I added a step to make them a bit crispier: I baked them at 300 degrees for 10 minutes (flipping the bread at 5). After that it was as easy as blending the bread to desired texture in a food processor and mixing with butter and spices of my choice. Done in 15 minutes.

The croutons were just as easy but took 45 minutes in the oven. I liked this recipe for croutons because it talked about using bread slices rather than French bread loaves like most of the recipes out there. Having all-wheat croutons may take some getting used to, but there's no preservatives like store-bought, it cost me nothing, and I can keep them in the freezer up to six months.

Another way I like to be thrifty is making my own chicken stock. I roast a larger oven-stuffer bird about twice a month so that I can make two or three meals out of the meat. Tip: You can often find them on sale at Kroger for $.99/lb.

After you debone the chicken, break the carcass into smaller pieces, add the skin, and just barely cover it with water. Throw in the tops of celery and any extra onion if you have it and add fresh pepper. Let that simmer a couple of hours covered, cool, discard everything but the broth, and let congeal overnight in the fridge. The next day skim off the fat.

Tip: I mix a little of the fat with some of the broth and pour it over the dog's food; she loves it. The remaining stock is usually about 3 cups, which I freeze in various sizes of Ziplocs. I take out smaller portions for recipes or larger amounts when I make soup. Now I've got healthy, delicious stock for $0.

So before you toss any food, I challenge you to think of another way it can be used first. Share your ideas.

Ten Ways to Save Thousands of Dollars

It's always nice to see your name and writing in print. Getting paid for it is even better. Thanks to Knoxmoms, I've accomplished both this month. Check out my article: "Ten Ways to Save Thousands of Dollars," which gives tips for saving cash on big ticket items.

Knoxmoms is a wonderful on-line community for mothers of all ages in Knoxville, TN. I'm honored to be a part of it. This free monthly magazine is well distributed around Knoxville, especially in kid-friendly venues. I recommend picking one up for car line. Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 1, 2010

FREE or Nearly Free Kroger Finds

Looking back over my Kroger receipt today, I realized I had 7 items that were free or nearly free; regularly they would have totaled $17.71 but I only spent $.46 for all 7! Deals are through Saturday, February 6 if you're interested in adding a few bargains to your list this week.

First of all, you need to decide on 10 items that qualify for the "Buy 10, get $5" sale. The plus side of this sale is that you get to pick from a lot of different items. The trick with this sale is that you must get exactly 10, 20, 30, etc. items to get the savings. If you buy 9, you save nothing; if you buy 10, you save $5; if you buy 11-19, you still only save $5. So I advise you to keep track of how many of these items you purchase by adding marks to your shopping list as you put them in the cart. And if you're coming up a couple short towards the end, treat yourself to one of the tastier sale products this week: Edy's ice cream (and don't forget the $1 coupon for Edy's in the paper a few weeks ago).

Most of my coupons were IPs that you can probably find on, and all my e-savers happened to come from Cellfire. That said, here are my 7 best finds at Kroger this week:

1. Chex Mix 8oz: $2.48 regular, $1.99 on sale, $.50 savings Cellfire, $.50/1 coupon doubled, $.50 B10,G5 deal savings; Final Cost: -$.01.

2. Nature Valley Nut Clusters 5oz: $3.79 regular, $2.69 on sale, $1 savings Cellfire, $1/1 coupon, $.50 B10,G5 deal savings; Final Cost: $.19.

3. French's Honey Mustard: $2.19 regular, $1.69 on sale, $.50/1 coupon doubled, $.50 B10,G5 deal savings; Final Cost: $.19.

4. Betty Crocker Frosting: $1.59 regular, $.50 Cellfire savings, $.50/1 coupon doubled. Note: This is a deal you can get often if you buy them one at a time. You might even make money if it's on sale. I just saw a recipe that uses this to make molten lava cake; yum! Final Cost: $.09.

5. Halls Cough Drops 30 count: $1.39 regular, $1 on sale, $.50/1 coupon doubled; Final Cost: FREE

6. Fresh Selections Bagged Salad 8oz: $3.28 regular, $2.50 on sale, Buy 2 Ocean Spray Craisins ($5 total), get salad free. If you don't like dried cranberries, then this is not the deal for you, but I was going to buy them anyway. Final Cost: FREE

7. Private Selection Organic Chocolate Milk half gallon: $2.99 regular, $2.79 on sale. By going here, you can get a coupon for 1 free half gallon of chocolate milk when you buy 2 gallons of white milk. I was going to buy the white milk anyway; so this was just a bonus. I was able to print 2 coupons for the chocolate milk a few weeks ago and just now, I printed one for a free gallon of white milk with $100 grocery purchase; no problem! Final Cost: FREE

I'm sure there are more deals to be had, but they weren't on my list. What were you able to get for free this week?