Sunday, May 30, 2010

Couponing for Charity 5/30 - 6/5

Hi there, charity couponers. I've perused the ads and match-ups this week and have decided to take a week off. There are deals to be had, but nothing I can't live without. Plus, since there are no inserts in today's paper, I don't have the newspaper incentive to get me shopping today.

If you want to pick one, I'd suggest Walgreen's today or tomorrow. If you want sodas, this is a good deal: If you buy 3 12 packs of Coca Cola products for $12, you get $5RR, making them $2.33 each--good Memorial Day weekend only. You might also try to get the free Neutragena soap; let me know if that works. According to Hip2Save's tip, if you get the free U by Kotex, you'll also get a coupon for free Always (now I'm reconsidering; I might just have to stop by tomorrow.) According to Coupon Katie's picks, there are also some deals with coupons that expire 5/31. Plus you can check out the new June coupon book filled with $325 of savings. For all the Walgreen's match-ups, go here.

I'm hoping Walgreen's will have some great deals next week so that I can use the $13 in RR that expire 6/6. If you want a sneak peek at what NEXT week should offer, click here. And though you can really skip CVS this week, here are all the match-ups and Coupon Katie's picks.

Happy Saving!

Thousands of People & No Trash

Yesterday I decided to volunteer to help people from all over the world know that Knoxville cares about recycling and is capable of hosting zero-waste events. All week, thousands of kids from 45 states and 13 countries have been competing in the global finals of Destination ImagiNation. These are the kids who are training to think creatively and solve challenges quickly as a team; yep, our leaders of tomorrow. So when the Knoxville Recycling Coalition asked if I would help at one of the lunches that promised to be a zero-waste event, I agreed so that I could see for myself how this worked.

Through trial and error at previous meals, they had it down to a fine science by Saturday. The kids and parents were starting to get the hang of it too, but they still needed a bit of guidance to know where to put what. The biggest component to making this a no-trash event was making sure the food vendor was on board with only providing food and products that were either compostable or recyclable. The drinks were all in either aluminum (sodas) or plastic (water or milk). All drink containers went into one bin that will be sorted and recycled at a facility owned by RockTenn in Knoxville.

The rest: food (including meat products), plates, utensils, napkins, etc. went into another garbage size bin that looked like trash, but here's the best part. Thanks to the Sevier Solid Waste industrialized composting system, all of this will be composted--not taken to landfill. Since they have 13 million visitors a year, a traditional recycling system isn't really feasible for Sevier County. Instead, no one has to sort their trash; it's done for them. They recycle what they can--metal, cardboard, tires, motor oil and newspapers--and compost the rest (minus plastic). The process is similar to backyard composters but on a much larger scale. Higher heats and excessive tumbling means it turns into compost more quickly. This enables them to divert an impressive 70% from landfill.

Even with the constant mantra of "plastic and cans on the sides, everything else in the middle," many disposing of their trash looked a little glassy-eyed. When we'd mention that it all gets composted, you could see the look of confusion. What about the chicken bones? What about these "plastic utensils" and the "plastic wrap" they came in? Normally you wouldn't put meat products in your backyard compost bin because that can attract varmints, but the industrialized system can handle it. And what looks like plastic is actually cornstarch based and will biodegrade (even the wrappers). An added bonus: they are made in the USA.

So was it truly a zero-waste event? The only items that didn't qualify were the occasional food wrapper that people brought themselves: from chips or a juice box, but that probably accounted for one small bag of trash. Amazing!

I commend the Knoxville Recycling Coalition for stepping up and organizing this. They're a local non-profit that's been operating for 20 years. They're the same people who are now recycling styrofoam. Thanks to a large bag from a neighbor, I now have enough for my first run. Hopefully they'll let me see the compacting process; I'll report back later. And for the record, you can include egg cartons and the packaging from meat, but wash them thoroughly. Those will be compacted separately but you can put it all in the same bag.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Buying a Swimsuit: So Much to Consider

It must rank on up there with one of the least favorite shopping activities for women: trying to find the perfect swimsuit. It was actually easier when I was pregnant because I enjoyed showing off my bulging belly. Now I'll do everything I can to flatten it. But finding the right fit is just the beginning of finding a great suit.

First is the task of deciding where and when to shop. I don't know who decided swimsuits should debut in February and dwindle down to size 2's and 16's by Memorial Day, but I'd like to have a chat with them. Personally, I don't want to try on skimpy clothing if a coat is required from the car to the store. Can't they give us til at least July 4 to put swimsuits on clearance?

I thought this morning would be a great time to snag a deal at either Kohl's or Old Navy. Old Navy was having 50% off clearance items and through an email alert from Kohl's, I learned swimsuits would be 50% off and I could use a printable coupon for 15% off that. I was certain to get a good deal!

I started at Kohl's since they open earlier. At first glance, they seemed to have a good selection. I suppose it all depends on your size and preference for style. I go for the sportier two pieces. I want something I can swim laps or wakeboard in. Two pieces also let me get a smaller size up top than on bottom and they work better with my long torso. Another benefit is you can sometimes buy pieces that mix and match. I did find some styles I liked but only the tops or only the bottoms were in my size. A matching set was not to be found.

I begrudgingly looked near the suits that looked more suitable for grandmothers and found a Nike style that seemed like it was just thrown on the end. My eyes began dancing when I found a top and bottom in my size. Now we enter the stage: will it actually hide & flatter? Does it lift the ta-tas, cinch the waist, and forgive my child-bearing hips? Will it fit without being too tight? Is this something I'm willing to sport in public?

When I tried them on in the dressing room, I was delighted and disappointed at the same time to realize the top was too big. Running short on time and patience, I darted out still wearing the swimsuit and searched for another top. I didn't trust the sizes on hangers and checked every suit. I was starting to loose faith when on the last one, a light shown down and angels sang. Ok, of course that didn't really happen, but I was elated. I tried it on and decided to buy it.

Now, I hadn't even looked at the price yet. But at this point, I think I would have paid just about anything for it. Half off, it was $40. Do people really pay $80 for this suit? That's crazy! With my coupon, that made it $34, and buying a pair of shorts I desperately needed (the last pair of non-maternity shorts I bought were before I had kids--no kidding!), I was going to exceed the $50 to get $10 in Kohl's cash. Hopefully I can use that for a cover-up in a couple of weeks. So I was good with the price.

But wait, that's not really all the factors in deciding a swimsuit. Subliminally, I was checking quality all along. I'd rather spend more for something that lasts longer, both from an environmental stand-point and because I'd like to put off the task of doing this all again for as long as I can. Quality: check.

Then there's the issue of sun protection. Does this have any UV protection? Well, no, but none of the suits I saw in the store noted that. On the days when I really need extra protection, I'll wear my Dakine swim shirt that is UVF 50 protected. I suggest getting these online.

Are we done yet? Not quite. It occurred to me only when I was home to think of where the suit was made. Was I contributing to another overseas sweat shop? I was afraid to look. The tag said "Made in Indonesia." Is that good? Is that bad? I don't know. I wish it were made in America but we can't have it all I suppose.

Yes, the picture is the one I picked with the exception of a skirt style bottom, but I don't look nearly as good as the model. I wish I had found a few other pieces to mix and match, but at least I have SOMETHING. Let the summer games begin.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Saving $ on Pricier Attractions

This week with grandparents in town, we decided to venture out to a few of the pricier attractions (their idea, not mine), but I'm grateful for the opportunity for all of us to experience some of the best family outings East TN has to offer. Never wanting to pay full-price, however, I searched for ways to save money.

Today we headed to Chattanooga to the Creative Discovery Museum (what we've always called "the Chattanooga children's museum"). I'm ashamed to admit we've lived in Knoxville five years and have never gone (using the excuse that it's too far). In reality, it only took us 1:45 each way, and the drive was cruise control most of the time. As for the museum, IT'S SO AWESOME! I'd go as far to say it's the best children's museum I've visited. From splashing in the water play to the special toddler area, from digging for dinosaur bones to the musical instruments, all three kids had a blast. And I was glad to see their new exhibit, Grossology (which travels the country) was already open. My boys talk incessantly about body functions, and this at least teaches some science behind them.

To save on tickets, the only discount I could find online was $1 off per ticket. All tickets for those two and up are $10.95 each. At the end of our stay, we decided to trade up for a yearly family membership. The money we had spent today was applied towards the $85 fee. We had to name the two adults (IDs will be required) but I can bring up to any four kids with me in the future. Since I can also get $2 off for guests, I could save one of my friends $13 when they come with us. Road Trip!

The other place I've resisted buying a membership up until now was the Knoxville Zoo. We've gone 3-4 times a year but have never paid enough to warrant a membership. Between the annual free zoo day, winter discounts, free child admission coupons in the school and library summer reading coupon books, and being free guests of members, we've never paid full-price. But now that I have three kids and no summer school, I decided it was time.

For our family to go to the zoo once, it would cost $64.80 plus tax (by February when Brooke turns 2, it will cost $77.75). I researched all the zoo membership options online and decided on the two-family membership for $95. By purchasing it at Kroger (any check-out line can do it), I saved $5 and earned $90 towards gas savings (if I ever go back to Shell again). The membership also saved money on the grandparents' tickets, ice cream, a carousel ride, and toys in the gift shop. My membership could also save me $20 at Dollywood or Splash Country, $2 per ticket at the Tennessee Aquarium, and 50% off to free admission at many zoos around the country. The best part about a zoo membership is that it takes the pressure off visits. We can stay for an hour or two and leave if someone is fussy without the guilt of having paid so much money. I'm really looking forward to that.

Since I brought up Dollywood and Splash Country, those are not venues we'll be getting memberships for this year but we have in the past. My husband's company used to have the annual company picnic at Dollywood (totally free for the family) and we could upgrade those tickets to seasonal passes for less than one other visit. We only went two additional times but it was worth it. If you can get any discount through your work, go for it. The earlier you buy one in the season, the cheaper it is. Season passes currently start at $76 for kids for Dollywood OR Splash Country and go up to $171 for the gold pass for both. Since this is PER PERSON, that's too much for us right now.

If you're looking for smaller and cheaper alternatives to zoos and museums, I'd suggest Little Ponderosa Zoo in Clinton and the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge. Single tickets for Little Ponderosa are $8 for everyone (kids under 2 are free). They often give coupons for one small bucket of feed (really a small dixie cup) in their ads in the Knoxville Kid's Directory or the Knoxmoms magazine. You can use that to upgrade to a reusable large cup that you can bring back each time for $3 (or maybe free if you have another coupon). I've also gotten free pony ride passes at festivals. They might distribute them at the Secret City Festival June 18 and 19.

The Children's Museum of Oak Ridge is also great to visit. Single tickets for adults are $7, kids 3 and up are $5, and under 3 are free. Between the giant dollhouse, the space shuttle, water works, and the model train display, we could go here several times a year. You could also buy a $90 family membership here, but that will take awhile to pay for itself.

Update since initial posting: I recently returned from our weekly playgroup with another great tip for those of you trying to decide on memberships. I should have known my friend Tina would have her pulse on the best deals. Through the East Tennessee Discovery Center (a smaller museum next to Knoxville Zoo), if you buy the "Supporter Membership" for $100, you can get free entry for your entire family to every children's AND science museum around the country. That includes of course the children's museums in Oak Ridge and Chattanooga as well as the ETDC and AMSE. Tina frequently travels to the Philadelphia area to visit family and can get entry to the Please Touch Museum and many other favorites.

I encourage you to check out these great venues and save money where you can. It's important to support places helping to enlighten, entertain, and educate our children in creative ways.

Klean Kanteen deal on Babysteals 5/27 only!

I just looked at my daily email from and they are selling Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottles for HALF OFF today--only while supplies last. To see these really are half-off, I checked where I usually buy them: I usually don't get to the Babysteals deals before they're gone, but I snagged one 18oz and one 12 oz bottle for a great price. Sure the brown color isn't my favorite, but it's good to have a couple of back-ups. We use the small bottles in the boys' lunch boxes for school.

Click here to see the variety of deals still available. At check-out, they will add shipping and handling (mine was more than $7) but I cut that down a bit by choosing standard delivery. I then used the code: WM15 in the coupon code box and that shaved $2.62 off the total. So my total for two was $21.73. Here's your chance to Go Green, Save Green!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kroger/Shell Gas Discounts--Ugh!!

I think I'm a pretty bright person and in some cases a rather patient one. But my patience with the Kroger / Shell deal to save on gas has run out. I visited my fourth Shell station today since the promotion began promising up to $1 off per gallon. The problem is that the machines at any Shell station can't read my Kroger card.

I've tried removing it quickly, slowly, both directions. I've tried typing in my alternate ID. Usually the clerk can work some magic inside, but even that didn't work today. Having gone out of my way (somewhat) to fill up at a station selling more expensive gas than down the street, I got no discounts whatsoever! I was steaming! It's not so much the fact that I had to pay more; it's the lure of a deal and then no follow through on the promise. I hate broken promises. If you can't deliver, then don't advertise you can.

The only time it has worked without problems is when I filled up at a Kroger gas station. Yes, it will take off more than $.10 per gallon--whatever you have earned since your last fill-up. So until Shell works out the kinks--if they ever do--I'm boycotting them and going to other gas stations.

Have you had problems getting your Kroger / Shell discounts? Have you found a solution?

Strawberries Going Fast

I just returned from Rutherford's Strawberries in Maryville, a great u-pick farm. With the rain and other end-of-school-year activities, it's the first chance we've been able to get back. My first trip there May 7 was AWESOME! The plants were dripping with berries and we easily filled our buckets, even with the distractions of kids. I shared tips for picking and making jam here. I vowed to go back in a couple of weeks but well, life never goes as planned.

First of all, we got off later than I'd hoped. Arriving at 10am instead of 9am can make all the difference. The pre-picked broccoli was all gone by 9:30am. This time I did bring all three kids but also Nana to watch them while I speed-picked. My visions of coming home with 25-30 pounds of berries were dashed upon our arrival.

The woman at the stand warned us "the fields were sparse." She was right. For every 10 berries I inspected, I picked 1. Some looked great and then turned over were half rotten. What's even more frustrating was that last week the fields were still bountiful. She said the end of the season is coming quicker this year due to excessive heat awhile back. She said the fields have peaked and they may only last another week or so.

In one hour, I only picked 5.5 pounds. I'll have just enough for a batch of jam and some to eat. Oh well. So if you want berries, get there Wednesday, Friday or Saturday. Has anyone had luck at other local farms?

Basics about the farm:
Address: 3337 Mint Road, Maryville, TN 37803.
Phone: (865) 982-5891
Directions: Their recording gives you detailed directions; I find these better than what I originally got off Yahoo maps. It seems like it's far away, but it usually takes about 15 minutes from the airport to get there.
Price: $1.25 / pound--great price (these are not organic but this farmer works hard to use the minimum amount of pesticides). CASH IS BEST.
Times of operation: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 8am-1pm, 4-8pm

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Couponing for Charity 5/23-29 & Update #10

If you're following my Couponing for Charity mission, here are this week's picks. It's never too late to start!

Once again, CVS comes out on top in my opinion if you want to pick just one store. Last week we got two free Gillette body wash at Walgreen's, but this week you get the same AND make four bucks! For Southern Saver's CVS match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's paired down list, go here.

Thanks to a tip from Southern Savers, I printed a $4 off $20 CVS purchase from home. Mine was going to expire 5/25; not sure how long you have from the time you print it, if it's even still available. With some of my previously earned ECBs, here was my transaction yesterday at CVS:

2 Gillette body wash (on sale for $4 each; get $4ECB each; limit 2)
1 Starbucks coffee ($7)
3 Raison Bran ($1.66 each; limit 3)
-Used B1G1 Gillette body wash
-Used $1/1 Starbucks (I think from All You magazine)
-Used $1/2 Kellogg's coupon that expired 5/23
-Used $4 off $20 CVS coupon
-Used $9ECB from previous trips

Total spent: $2.31
ECBs good for another month: $8

For Southern Saver's Walgreen's match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here. I was going to get the all-purpose solution money maker but couldn't find the coupon in last week's insert. Did I miss it or did we not get that one? I bought goods in two transactions; I'll see my true savings in future shopping trips.

Transaction #1:
2 Huggies Little Movers ($9 each; buy 2, get $3RR)
1 Goody barette ($2.99; get $3RR)
1 News Sentinel ($2)
1 Colgate Total ($2.99, get $2RR)
-Used 2 $3/1 Huggies printables
-Used 1 $.75/1 Colgate coupon
-Used 2 $4.50RR from last week
Note: The number of products must not exceed your number of coupons; 5 products, 5 coupons.

Total spent: $10.23
RR good for two weeks: $8

Transaction #2:
2 Honey Nut Cheerios ($1.99 each)
1 Colgate Total ($2.99, get $2RR)
1 Revlon tweezers ($2.99)
1 Goody barrette ($2.99; get $3RR)
1 Carefree 22 count feminine care (will be free after both coupons)
-Used 1 $1/2 General Mills coupon from paper
-Used 1 $.75/1 Colgate coupon from paper
-Used 1 $1/1 Revlon coupon from paper
-Used 1 $1/1 Walgreen's coupon in May book for Revlon tweezers
-Used 1 $1/1 Carefree coupon from paper
-Used 1 $.99 in ad coupon for Carefree
Note: I couldn't use my RR from the previous transaction to get more RR this time and I had to keep the coupon to ration correct: 6 products, 6 coupons.

Total spent: $10.42
RR good for two weeks: $5

Since I'll be keeping some of these things and donating others, here are my totals:

Total products to donate this week: 2 body wash, 1 toothpaste, 1 feminine care, 1 barrette
Total value of these products: $17.60 ($10 for body wash, $3 for toothpaste, $1.60 for feminine care, $3 for barrette)--it's actually more, but I don't know specifically how much the sale prices took off some products.
Total spent for these products: -$3.75 ($4 moneymaker minus $.25 for toothpaste)

Total products to donate to date: 5 tubes toothpaste, 5 deodorants, 2 bars of soap, 1 hand soap, 9 body wash, 3 shampoo, 1 conditioner, 1 heat wrap, 4 feminine care, 1 lip balm, 2 toothbrushes, 1 barrette
Total value of products to date: $124.95
Total spent to date: -$14.70

What deals did you get this week?

Seize the Deal Target Winner

Congratulations to Patti T.! She won the $250 Target gift card by signing up for FREE emails from Seize the Deal. What exactly is Seize the Deal? It's a new online way to save 50-90% on local services: entertainment, dining, spa treatments, etc. They hope to be offering daily deals in Knoxville within the next 30 to 45 days. The sooner more people sign up, the sooner the deals begin.

So here's basically how Seize the Deal works. Every day (starting at midnight and ending at midnight), they will feature only ONE hot deal for local restaurants, salons, spas, entertainment, adventures, or other services. On Fridays, the deal runs through the weekend. By leveraging "the power of the group," each deal is 50-90% off retail!

The only catch is there is a minimum amount of people that are needed for the daily deal to be "seized." If that number isn't met, nobody is out any money, but no one gets the deal. So if it's something you really want, you should share the details with your friends fast so that you can all reap the benefits.

You can sign up by clicking here. By doing so, you are helping support my writing and efforts to share good deals with you. Thank you!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chuck E. Cheese on the Cheap

To be completely honest, I'm a patron but not a big fan of Chuck E. Cheese. It's never my first choice for a play date, but my kids love it and it can be a good way to beat the heat in the summer. Today Chuck E. Cheese was the resounding request for where the boys wanted to go on the first day of our summer vacation. Roll the eyes.

Thinking at least we would beat the summer crowds, I consented. Once there it occurred to me that I have picked up a few tips over the years to save money here. So if your kids find it as irresistible as mine do, these are for you.

If you want to avoid paying for lunch, get there early. They open at 9am, and most kids are done within 1.5 hours.

I realize they may frown upon this, but I buy a lot of tokens at once and spread them out over a few visits. With their latest coupon in a paper insert, you can get 160 tokens for $25. That provides enough entertainment for all three kids for three visits.

Chuck E. Cheese has lots of ways to earn 10 tokens per child, per visit. Check out the variety of rewards calendars or bring in their report card for up to 15 tokens--both require a food purchase. One of these is always pertinent; so we can usually count on 20 extra tokens each visit if we're willing to buy pizza.

I give each child their allotment of coins in the beginning. When they're gone, we go home. I've found 30 for Bobby and 30 between Devin & Brooke works out pretty well. This has proven to be a good way to teach them money management skills as well: they realize we have a finite amount of money, they can make either good or bad choices with their money, and they can decide how long their money will last. Bobby goes for the games that generate the most tickets, and so far, Devin prefers the rides. Bobby runs out of coins first but Devin has virtually no tickets. They've learned compromise by Devin sharing some of his coins for Bobby's tickets.

I'm using my powers of make believe as long as possible. Brooke (15 months) is still young enough to be content just sitting on the horse. I make clippity clop sounds, pull on the reins, and point to the horses on the screen. She doesn't know I never put in a coin.

Treat the ticket chomper like another game. They love that thing.

From an environmental perspective, the cheap chachkis they trade their tickets for are awful, but what kid doesn't like plastic rings, snakes, suckers, and stickers? I look at it as another way for them to practice their consumer skills. They have to make choices they can afford; they can't have anything they want. I also encourage them to consider saving their tickets for something "really great" in the future or they could opt for something cheaper now. My boys always go the "give it to me now" route, but I'm hoping they'll eventually wise up to the fact that most of the stuff here is just tomorrow's trash.

If you're looking to book a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, I HIGHLY suggest opting for a weekday party (cheaper and less chaotic). And if you have two kids with birthdays near each other, you can get one party for both for the same price. Bobby and Devin are 5 days (and three years) apart, and we celebrated their 5th and 2nd birthdays together here. We made the mistake of doing it on a Saturday when there were easily 5 other parties going on simultaneously. Ugh. I've also been to unofficial parties here where the parents got enough tokens for all the guests and brought in their own cake and gift bags. That's a big money saver for sure.

To save on pizza and tokens, you could get coupons from either the paper inserts or by signing up for periodic emails. But be prepared that you're still going to pay about $15 for a large cheese pizza. I can appreciate they're a business that needs to make money, but $15 for a cheese pizza is crazy to me. Today we left and went to Little Caesar's on Cedar Bluff and bought one for $5. We then took it across the street to the woods surrounding The Church of the Good Samaritan (which happens to be our church) and had a picnic. It was awesome. The grounds are inspiring, refreshing, and of course open to the public. All they ask is for you to leave it like you found it.

So how do you save money at Chuck E. Cheese?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Couponing for Charity 5/16-22 & Update #9

It's a decent week for savings, especially if you need body wash, deodorant, shampoo, and chocolate--all FREE but no money makers in sight. Here are my picks:

For all the CVS match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here. I chose to buy my newspaper at CVS with one of the $2ECB rewards from last week. My goal is to never pay "real money" for a paper again. Once I had the $2 Aussie coupon from today's paper, I went in for this transaction:
1 Aussie shampoo (on sale for $2.99; get $2ECB)
1 Aussie gel (on sale for $2.99; get $2ECB)
2 Lady Speed Stick (on sale for $2.99 each; get $2ECB each)
2 large dark Hershey bars (B1 at $1.99, G1 for $.01)

Coupons used:
$2 Aussie when you buy one shampoo and one styling gel
2 $1/1 Lady Speed Stick (from "junk mailer")
2 $1/1 Hershey
$7 ECB from last week
$1 ECB from last week

Total spent: $1.16
Total ECBs for next time: $8

So basically, I got all these for FREE. The shampoo and one deodorant will go to charity.

For all the Walgreen's match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here. I was going to get the free Stride gum, but I couldn't find that coupon in today's paper. So I focused on the body wash deals instead. And since we needed tweezers, I got somewhat of a deal there.

Transaction #1:
2 Old Spice body wash ($4.49 each; get $4.50RR)
Used B1G1 coupon from P&G insert
Used $3RR from last week
Total spent: $2.32
RR for next time: $4.50 (Note: You can NOT use a RR on the same deal the next time; the RR usually will not print out if you do).

Transaction #2:
2 Gillette body wash ($4.49 each; get $4.50RR)
1 Revlon tweezers ($4.99)
Used B1G1 Gillette coupon from P&G insert
Used $1/1 Revlon tweezers from Walgreens May coupon book
Used $1/1 Revlon manufacturers coupon
Total spent: $6.49
RR for next time: $4.50

So basically, I got 4 body washes for FREE. I had more coupons and could have kept going, but enough is enough. Email me if you'd like the coupons. I'll be donating all four body washes and keeping the tweezers.

Total products to donate this week: 4 body wash, 1 shampoo, 1 deodorant
Total value of these products: $25.74 ($17.96 for body wash, $4.29 for shampoo, $3.49 for deodorant)
Total spent for these products: $0

Total products to donate to date: 4 tubes toothpaste, 5 deodorants, 2 bars of soap, 1 hand soap, 7 body wash, 3 shampoo, 1 conditioner, 1 heat wrap, 3 feminine care, 1 lip balm, 2 toothbrushes
Total value of products to date: $107.35
Total spent to date: -$10.95

What deals did you get this week?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Seize the Deal: LAST day for $250 GC

FYI: Today, 5/15/10, is the LAST day to qualify for a $250 Target gift card by signing up for FREE emails at Seize the Deal. You have until midnight, and the drawing will be tomorrow or Monday. For more info on how Seize the Deal can save you big bucks on local services, go here.

By clicking through my site to sign up here, I thank you for supporting Blue Frog Creations.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Should you Buy Baby Formula off Craigslist?

Tonight local reporter / anchor Tearsa Smith of WATE did a story on buying baby formula on the internet. For the full story (written or video format), go here. I was happy to assist Tearsa in finding a mother from our MOMS Club to speak on camera about formula. Lauren Cook did great!

As Coupon Katie recently had her third child, she recently posted a request for ways to save on formula. I applaud her for reaching out for ideas, since she will be undergoing treatment for MS shortly and won't be able to continue breast feeding. I've been impressed with the comments and suggestions.

Personally, I think it's wonderful women have options to feed their babies, but I strongly believe in breast feeding whenever possible. There's just too much literature supporting it to deny breast is best. But I know how hard it can be; trust me, I know! Using a shield for 4 months with one and pumping every ounce for another for 10 months, I have discovered it's not always as "natural" as I'd once envisioned. But then along came Brooke who breastfed exclusively with virtually no problem; kids are all so different.

So where do you stand on the formula issue? Would you buy it from a stranger off Craigslist? Do you trust that generic is just as good as the name brands? How do you save money on formula?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seize the Deal: Sign up by May 15

If you have not already done so, sign up for FREE emails from Seize the Deal, a new online way to save big bucks on local services, coming to Knoxville soon. The easiest way is to click on the "Sign Up" button on the Seize the Deal banner at the top right of my blog or click here. The best part is that if you sign up by Saturday, May 15, you'll be entered in a drawing to win a $250 Target gift card. Sweet!

So here's basically how Seize the Deal works. Every day (starting at midnight and ending at midnight), they will feature only ONE hot deal for local restaurants, salons, spas, entertainment, adventures, or other services. On Fridays, the deal runs through the weekend. By leveraging "the power of the group," each deal is 50-90% off retail!

The only catch is there is a minimum amount of people that are needed for the daily deal to be "seized." If that number isn't met, nobody is out any money, but no one gets the deal. So if it's something you really want, you should share the details with your friends fast so that you can all reap the benefits.

So what are you waiting for? It's FREE and you could win $250 from Target!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Strawberry Pickin' & Jam Makin'

It's taken me awhile to get around to this post because, well, I've been busy with strawberries. I love this time of year because strawberry picking has become a tradition now (four years and counting). Recount my first experience here. For good tips on what to pack for a pick-your-own farm, check Gabe's post here.

This year I made my annual pilgrimage to Rutherford's Strawberries in Maryville with my friend Mitzi, her 3-year-old, my 3-year-old and my 1-year-old. On the way there, Mitzi fantasized how our children will one day reminisce about how special it was to pick fresh strawberries in a field! I hope pick-your-own farms will never disappear and that I'll still be out there in 50 years. I firmly believe that children learn far more about the values of sustainable farming out in a field than in a classroom and that nothing instills a passion for buying locally-grown like the taste of a strawberry right off the vine. The flavor is beyond compare what you can buy in any store.

That said, strawberry picking with kids is wonderful but can be challenging. So I do have a few tips for making your trip more pleasant for all of you.

1. PICK THE RIGHT DAY AND TIME: They are open M, W, F, and Saturday, 8am-1pm and 4-8pm. They've been busy every time I've gone on a week day; I can only imagine the mad house on Saturdays but I could be wrong. I like first thing in the morning because it's not too hot, the kids aren't hungry or tired, and you get first pick of the fruit that's been growing for two days. And try not to go right after a rain; the fields will be soaked.

2. WEAR APPROPRIATE CLOTHING: All of you should wear older clothes and shoes. I prefer jeans since I'm inevitably crawling on the ground at some point. Mitzi wore rain boots and I chose old sneakers. Bring a change of clothes for everyone when you're done. Devin had mud from head to toe as you can see. And wear a hat with a brim, even in the morning.

3. BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINERS: It's up to you to bring suitable containers to put the strawberries in. One suggestion for the kids is a sand bucket--something with a handle they can carry easily. I would not suggest your good Tupperware as they write on the outside with Sharpies and it took a good six months for that to come off one year.

4. START FAR AWAY AND WORK YOUR WAY BACK: It's so tempting to pick the first row and go, but you'll find better selection further from the check-out stand. Pick a row that's not so muddy, go to the end, and work your way back.

5. ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE, TAKE PICTURES, BUT DON'T DAWDLE: I find it's a constant juggling act teaching the kids about what to pick and what not to pick, capturing their expressions in pictures, and actually gathering strawberries. One hour is about their limit. If you don't focus, you won't get enough berries for jam if that's your goal. Aim for at least 10 pounds.

6. KEEP EXPECTATIONS REASONABLE: If you're coming with kids, take a deep breath and try to have fun. Some kids get bored quickly and others just want to run up and down the rows (which they frown upon but rarely say anything about). They'll inevitably have to go to the bathroom and there is no port-a-potty. Bring a travel potty if you have it and lots of wipes. Look at this as yet another opportunity to engage, educate and entertain your children.

7. PLAN HOW YOU WILL USE THE BERRIES AND PICK ONLY WHAT YOU NEED: If you're able to get an abundance of strawberries (there was one woman who picked 115 pounds in 2 hours--amazing!), you'll want to consider making jam the old-fashioned way: Gabe walks you through it all here. I, however, prefer making freezer jam: it requires fewer berries, less sugar, doesn't require cooking, and tastes amazing. With my 13.5 pounds of berries I picked on Friday, I made two batches of jam (12 cups), froze 2 trays for smoothies, and ate 1.5 pounds fresh.

8. SOME TIPS FOR THE FRUIT WHEN YOU GET HOME: Since I believe Rutherford's uses minimal pesticides, the berries are more fragile than what you buy in a store. I'd advise you to either make jam, freeze or dehydrate them within 48 hours. (I've never dehydrated them before but that's what I got for Mother's Day! Hopefully, I'll get one more trip to the farm so that I can use it.) Once home, I sorted the berries into the nicest ones to eat the next few days, the good but not perfect for freezing, and the slightly mushy or those with imperfections for the jam. Do not wash them until you're ready to make jam or freeze them and do not submerge them in water; I used a spray nozzle and a colander.

9. FREEZER JAM IS QUICK AND EASY: Mitzi came over to make the jam with me and was surprised how easy and fast it was. I had told her in previous years but she didn't believe me.
If you're interested in making freezer jam, you should be able to find the freezer jam pectin packets and containers at Kroger, Target, or Wal-Mart this time of year. You'll need 4 cups of crushed fruit (about 4 pounds) per batch, and you simply follow the directions on the pectin packet. The most time-consuming part is washing and de-stemming them. Kids love mashing the fruit and stirring in the sugar and pectin. Put down old towels where you'll be pouring the jam to avoid messy stains.

10. SHARE THE JOY: Use this as an opportunity to share your talents and hard work. I like giving jam to teachers at the end of the year or to relatives now or at Christmas. The jam is good in the freezer for a year.

Basics about the farm.
Address: 3337 Mint Road, Maryville, TN 37803.
Phone: (865) 982-5891
Directions: Their recording gives you detailed directions; I find these better than what I originally got off Yahoo maps. It seems like it's far away, but it usually takes about 15 minutes from the airport to get there.
Price: $1.25 / pound--great price (these are not organic but this farmer works hard to use the minimum amount of pesticides). CASH IS BEST.
Times of operation: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 8am-1pm, 4-8pm