Sunday, August 29, 2010

Couponing for Charity 8/29 - 9/4

Hi savvy shoppers. I currently have a cold and would rather crawl in bed than step foot in any store. So I won't have my updates til later in the week. Here are the best deals I see from the blogs to get you going.

If you want to pick just one store, head to Walgreen's. Southern Savers has a new look for her blog but the same great match-ups. Go here for the Walgreen's deals. There's lots of freebies this week: natural supplement, tampons, lip balm, breath right strips, and pork & beans. There are also decent deals on on Listerine, Cheerios, Colgate, Campbells, and printer ink refills ($10).

I never thought I'd say this, but don't even waste your time at CVS this week. Shocker, I know! Save those ECBs for another week. Here are SS's match-ups for CVS if you can't resist.

At Kroger, you can get free Gillette disposable razors through Aug. 31 by using a coupon and an e-saver; for details click here. If you haven't loaded e-savers from, you should check them out at the beginning of September when hopefully they'll have lots of new savings on Proctor & Gamble products. And make sure you save your receipts for any P&G products you purchase between now and 12/31. When you spend $50 on products, they'll send you a coupon book worth $110. You don't have to buy them all at once. I did this last time, and I've been somewhat pleased with the coupons. Don't go out of your way, but if the deals are there, it's worth gathering your receipts.

Note: If you still have a $5 off Schick Hydro razor coupon, you can use this with the $4 esaver and possibly make money depending on the price. These are good for another month; so be on the look-out for a deal.

If you see any other great freebies I could collect for charity, please leave a comment. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mother of the Year

Today started out great. I took Devin and Brooke hiking, we played in the basement, they ate a good lunch, they both napped...simultaneously. Life was good in our house today, but then a slow train wreck began to take over.

Later in the afternoon, I was trying to make a lasagna for dinner: chopping, cooking, grating, layering--a fairly time consuming process. I was particularly engrossed in this dinner because it represented the fruits of my "go green, save green" philosophy. The noodles I'd bought on sale, the goat and mozzarella cheeses were both free with coupons / sales, the fresh parmesan cheese was bought in bulk at Sam's Club, the zucchini was $1 a pound, the Chinese eggplant was from the farmers' market, fresh tomatoes and basil were from our garden (had to throw those in), and the tomato sauce was almost free with coupons. It was even our occasional vegetarian meal because going meatless is better for our health and the environment. Click here for the recipe (which incidentally turned out great.) But I digress.

I was so engrossed in my activities that I missed completely the cues from my 18-month-old that she was not feeling well. She wanted to be held more. She wasn't hungry. She couldn't be entertained with any of the usual tricks. I let her watch me prepare dinner from the step stool, but when she grabbed a handful of my parmesan cheese and threw it on the floor, I'd had it! I locked her in her highchair with some cheese and pasta and let her cry...and cry...and cry. I was trying to tune her out and finish my lasagna. Probably 20 minutes into inconsolable behavior, I pulled her from the highchair and yelled at her, "What do you want from me?!?!?!" She cried even harder and then proceeded to throw up on me...not one, not two, not three, but four times in a row. I was so disgusted, humbled, and saddened by her state, that I didn't know where to begin.

The boys did help by fetching towels and bowls. I cleaned her up as best I could while holding her, waiting for the next wave. It was then I felt her forehead. My "mommy thermometer" estimated just over 100, but I wanted confirmation. I hunted in all the usual places a thermometer should be and came up empty. "Is it too much to ask to have a thermometer handy when I need it?!" I screamed. As I was carrying her all over the house during this hunt, she just stared at my rhetorical question.

Giving up on the thermometer and the hope that I'd get the smell of puke off me any time before my husband returned home, I settled in with my daughter and just snuggled. I learned early on that one of the best gifts I can give my children is to hold them when they need it, and this was one of those times.

She responded well to Tylenol and was seemingly back to normal within half an hour of the incident. Seeing as her fever returned by 10pm, we're not out of the woods yet. I share all this not because I think you want to hear about the disgusting parts of my day but because of what my husband said when I told him this story. His only response was: "Mother of the Year." That's our catch phrase for comforting the other when we feel at our lowest. No matter how bad I think my behavior was today, surely there were worst offenders out there. It's also a reminder that though I may feel like the worst mother on the planet right now, our kids will hopefully always revere me as "Mother of the Year" in a good way. At least I survived and will start again tomorrow with optimism.

How do you handle when you feel like "Mother of the Year?"

Hiking Close to Home

I love hiking with my kids. There have been days when they've broken down in tears or thrown temper tantrums about something as little as a rock, but all in all, hiking has been a big part of our lives. I hiked while pregnant with all three (up to within 48 hours of giving birth) and was out again with them in carriers six weeks later. So I thought I'd share three great places near Oak Ridge if you'd like to start your own hiking adventures.

It's good to start small. If hiking isn't your forte, you should start with a nice walking trail along Melton Lake Drive. Coming from Pellissippi Parkway, exit at Edgemoor. Just before the big bridge and Bull Run Steam Plant, turn left onto Melton Lake Drive. You can park anywhere along here and walk the trail that extends the length of the road (several miles). This is ideal for stroller pushing mommas, those who prefer a lot of company on the trails, and for those who must have access to a bathroom. The downside is that you will have a constant flow of traffic not far away; at least you have the lake on the other side to balance it out.

If you're ready for a little more nature, head to the UT Arboretum on Pellissippi Parkway. It's just past Commerce Park Drive on the right--before you get to Oak Ridge. They recently upgraded the parking lot, and there's a small nature center for bathrooms. You can see a map of trails on the common board, but you might want to print a map to take with you. For your first adventure, take the White Pine Trail one way and the trail along the creek back (half a mile total). Once you're ready for more, I suggest the Oak Hickory Trail or Lost Chestnut Trail. Some of the trails are stroller accessible, but they might be a hassle. The Arboretum is one of my favorite places year-round.

However, I do like to branch out to other venues. So today I took my youngest two children to Haw Ridge Park (see pictures above). From Pellissippi Parkway, exit at Edgemoor. Just after the boat launch, you'll see a small parking lot on your right with a kiosk that says Haw Ridge Park. There's a map on the board, but you might want to print a map to take with you. This park is mainly frequented by mountain bikers, but I've found one trail to be ideal for kids: West Shore (about a mile round-trip). Even Brooke (age 18 months) hiked the majority of it by herself. (I brought the Ergo just in case.)

The trail begins just to the left of the parking lot. As trails split, always veer to the right to stay along the water and to stay on the easier trails. There are no signs to guide you; so a map is handy. You'll have to leave your stroller at home, but it's not that hard for ages 3 and up. The trail is almost completely shaded and offers refreshing views of the lake at all times. You can either walk until the path turns away from the lake and then turn around or take one trail that goes up and then down pretty sharply.

We spent 1:15 hiking there today when it was cool and refreshing (before 10am). Until fall arrives, I'd suggest getting out as soon as possible. The fresh air did them good because both are still napping. Tip: There are no "official" bathrooms. ;-)

A few general tips for hiking with your kids:
  • Hike with a buddy if you can. It's always safer to hike with two adults, but I often decide on spontaneous trips and do it alone.
  • Always carry a cellphone. I did have full service at Haw Ridge.
  • Always carry water. To cut down on what I carry, I only bring one water bottle that all of us drink from. I can't carry a backpack because Brooke is often on my back. On longer hikes (like to Laurel Falls in the Smokies), I did carry a cooler bag with bottles for each of them. Offer water often; hydrated kids are happy hikers.
  • Make sure they're wearing comfortable clothes and shoes. Pick a pair of tennis shoes that fit but that you don't mind getting muddy.
  • Change diapers right before you start to minimize the need to change them on the trail. I do bring one extra and a travel pack of wipes in the Ergo.
  • Bring a very basic first aid kit: travel Neosporin and a couple band-aids. I haven't done this in the past but will begin this routine. Today Devin got a cut from a blade of grass, stick or thorn--enough to draw blood. He was very distressed and would have benefitted from a quick band-aid.
  • Bring easily portable snacks if you're out for more than an hour. If it's a quick hike, I bring as little as possible, but sometimes food is just what you need to energize them for the return trip.
  • Teach them to listen to their bodies and never hike further up than they can hike back themselves. We often hike a trail near our neighborhood and sometimes we don't get very far. I don't mind because they're learning to do what they can at the time.
  • Wear shorts with deep pockets. I usually wear an old pair from REI (very durable and hide dirt well). They're great because they have deep pockets for carrying those essential treasures like acorns, leaves, or rocks. Tip: The Arboretum has a policy of "no collecting." Just don't take it home with you.
  • Take time to stop and marvel at nature's wonder. We often count centipedes or examine mushrooms (they know not to touch or eat wild mushrooms). The other day we watched a spider pull a mosquito into her web and eat it within seconds. Cool.
  • Use your hikes as an opportunity to share your knowledge about flowers or bugs you encounter. If you don't know something, look it up together on the computer when you get home.
Of all the reasons I could give you to hike with children, my best is that it makes me a better mom. Nature recharges my batteries. At the end of today's hike, my mind was relaxed, my body was refreshed, and my spirit was restored. What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Feed Knoxville

Ok, all you savvy stock-pilers. Do I have an event for you?! Thanks to Coupon Katie for this tip: This Saturday, August 28 is the Feed Knoxville 2010 event at World's Fair Park from 3-8pm. The goal is to collect 100,000 items of food to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank.

Second Harvest in Knoxville has seen an increase of 28% in demands for food services this past year. An average of 155,000 people are being helped every month. This is our chance to come together as a city to assist with our most basic need: food.

Feed Knoxville 2010 will have lots of FREE family activities including inflatables, live music and FREE food. For every food item you donate, you will be given a ticket that enters you into some great give-aways (motorcycles, vacations, and spa packages).

Couponing has enabled me to stock up on canned goods for very little. I have several soups, cans of tomatoes, and boxes of cereal I can donate. Tip: Check expiration dates. I'm planning to take the whole family; hope to see you there!

If you can't make it on Saturday, consider dropping some donations at three select Chick Fil-A stores to get a free meal. For every three donations, you get a free chicken sandwich though 8/27, 5-8pm. Click here for the details.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Couponing for Charity 8/22 - 28 & Update #20

Hi, savvy savers. I'm here with your weekly deals, especially those you might consider donating to a charity, but I have to admit, I'm not real inspired this week. I did go to CVS today and I plan to stop by Walgreen's at some point to pick up the diaper deals, but otherwise, I'm not going shopping anywhere else this week so that I can meet my monthly budget goals. There are no major deals at Kroger, and I stocked up on some lovely produce at the Market Square farmer's market on Saturday.

For how to get two packs of diapers and two tubs of wipes for just $11.98, check out Coupon Katie's post on Walgreen's. If you want to pick just one store, head to CVS for the best deals. For Southern Saver's match-ups, go here. I just spent $3.90, saved $33.49, and got $18ECB for next time. Here's how:

2 Listerine Total Care (normally $4.99, on sale for $3.99, get $2ECB, limit 2)
1 Crest Pro Health 4oz (normally $4.99, on sale for $3.49, get $2.50ECB, limit 2)
1 Crest Glide Pro Health floss (normally $4.49, on sale for $3.49, get $2.50ECB, limit 2--same deal as above)
1 Blink Tears .34oz (normally $10.49, on sale for $7.99, get $7.99ECB) Note: The "gel tears" were not marked as the special, but they did produce the savings.
1 CVS itch cream: $5.29 (not on sale but the hubby was stung by something yesterday and his foot was swelling; at least I got 2 tubes for the comparable price of 1 Benadryl tube).

Total before coupons: $28.24
--Used $5 off $25 CVS coupon emailed to me; sign up here to get a $4 off $20.
--Used 2 $2 Listerine printables. Note: I couldn't find the Listerine Zero, but the coupon will work for the other. It's all Listerine, or if you want to use a $1/1, that's still a good deal.
--Used $1/1 Crest toothpaste from 8/01 paper
--Used $1/1 Crest Glide floss from 8/01 paper
--Used $9.99 and $4 ECBS from previous weeks
Subtotal after coupons: $1.75
Total paid with tax: $3.90
ECBs earned for next time: $18 (including $1 ECB for my green tag)

Since our family can use all of these products but we have enough toothpaste, that's the only item I'll be contributing this week.


TOTAL PRODUCTS TO DONATE TO DATE: 10 pens, 3 multi-purpose eye solutions, 1 shampoo, 6 feminine care, 1 pack of napkins, 1 pack of paper, 5 toothpastes, 2 toothbrushes, 1 deodorant, 2 first aid kits, 2 boxes of crayons, 1 fiber supplement, 1 razor
TOTAL SPENT: --$18.53

What deals get you excited this week?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Southern Roots are Showing

If you're a true GRITS (Girl Raised in the South), you know all about the delicacies: fried okra and fried green tomatoes. There's even a book called, The Goodness of Fried Okra. But in case you missed learning the fine art of frying from your mother, I'd like to share a few tips. (Thanks, Mom!)

First of all, let me clear up a common misconception about Southern cooking. Though we like fried food, most of us do not eat it every day or every other day or even every week. We know it's not a healthy way to eat our vegetables, but it's a seasonal luxury that's worth repeating at least twice a month during summer.

Secondly, if you only need one excuse to grow tomatoes and okra, it should be that you get to enjoy it fried fresh. I realize "fried" and "fresh" seem like oxymorons, but the best fried vegetables are straight from the garden. I've been thankful that my neighbor Mitzi has been sharing some of her okra since our plants are a bit behind this year. I look forward to returning the favor when her plants begin to fade off. If you don't have a garden or friends who garden, check out one of our many weekly farmers' markets. I've seen both okra and green tomatoes there.

Preparing both is quite simple. Wash, slice, and coat in corn meal by shaking it in a bag. I sprinkle a little fresh cracked pepper in as well. For cooking, I use vegetable oil in my cast iron skillet. You don't have a cast iron skillet? How can you be Southern and not own a cast iron skillet?! Go get one! The 10 inch skillet is an ideal size.

Fill your pan with at least half an inch of oil and heat 'til a flick of water makes a popping sound. DO NOT ADD THE VEGETABLES UNTIL THE OIL IS REALLY HOT. Hot oil is the key to "searing" the vegetables in a way and ensures the vegetables don't soak up excess oil and become soggy. I use the setting just under the hottest so that they don't burn.

Do not pour a lot in at once; they should be placed in a single layer and not touching each other. Frying is not a process you can walk away from. Watch and turn quickly as they reach a golden brown. Make sure you use a metal slotted spoon unless you want to see how plastic spoons melt. Been there; done that.

Remove them with the spoon onto a plate covered in paper towels. I blot them quickly and crack more fresh pepper on top before getting the next batch into the oil. Most people will only cook what they can eat at a meal. Call me crazy, but I actually like leftover fried veggies. I'll even eat them cold. But they do taste best if you eat them hot out of the oil. Since you haven't cooked any meat, you can compost the paper towels used to drain the oil. Once cool, I pour the used cooking oil into an old jar.

So how about you? Do you like fried okra and green tomatoes? What's your secret?

What's for Lunch?

It's back to school time--back to early rising, back to homework, and back to packing lunches. Whether your child is in high school, grade school, or MDO, the dilemma of what to pack can be an on-going challenge. But once again, I'm here to share ideas for how you can go green and save green for school lunches.

Since my first grader has no interest in school lunches, I'm packing every day. To cut down on trash, I've bought Laptop Lunch boxes (like the traditional Japanese bento box) for all three kids. They're a little pricey ($25 at or search online for "discount codes" before buying), but it's a worthwhile investment. Inside, there are two small and two medium size boxes (dishwasher and microwave safe). There's also a tiny box you could use for ketsup or dipping sauces, and flatware included. Most boxes don't have tops, but solid contents will not fall out, even turned upside down. I can attest that the boxes and flatware are great quality and will hold up to everyday use. They also fit into most standard insulated cases.

For a ton of ideas of what to pack in your laptop lunches, it comes with a handy book. Melissa at Frugalissa Finds has some great pictures and ideas too; here's another of her posts about how to actually get your kids to eat these healthy lunches.. If your school allows them the use a microwave, that opens up loads of possibilities. I send cooked pasta, lunch meat rolled up since they don't like sandwiches (aka: turkey or ham roll-ups), slices of cheese, cut-up fruit, Chex mix, popcorn, goldfish, cheezits, Annie's bunny snacks, raisons, mini carrots, and pretzyls. I stay away from anything already prepackaged, including Capri Suns and juice boxes. I send ice water in a Klean Kanteen instead; look for the sport caps for younger children. You can often pick them up for half price on

The most important detail is follow your program's guidelines on nuts. If peanuts are out but other nuts are allowed, I recommend fresh almond butter at Ingles for sandwiches. Since Devin has a classmate highly allergic to all nuts, I'll be careful of that.

For more ideas, sign up for Earthfare's Healthy Lunch Challenge. You'll get a coupon for a free insulated bag (value: $2.99) through 8/31 or while supplies last. Now through 8/24, you can get one pound of organic grapes (red or white) for FREE with this coupon. Remember grapes are one of the "dirty dozen" that you want to buy organic or at least grown in the USA. For other sale items at Earthfare and printable coupons, go here. And don't forget to check out

If you haven't made it to Kroger's mega sale the past two weeks, get there by Saturday for some great deals on lunch items. For fresh produce, there was a $4 off $20 or $1 off $5 coupon in the Kroger home mailer. I also had two store coupons for $.50 off mini carrots. Note: these do NOT double, but with the sale this week, each pack was only $.50. There's also a $.55 off Earthgrains bread; never underestimate the importance of good quality bread! Finally, there was a $1 off Hefty storage bags, which makes one box free this week. The gallon freezer bags are great for making freezer meals to save you time during the busy school year. If you don't get Kroger home mailer coupons, call customer service; they're great!

As for lunch meats, I prefer Hormel Natural Choice meats. They have NO nitrates, NO artificial ingredients, are minimally processed, have NO MSG added, are raised without added hormones, and are gluten free. You can also find coupons in the paper, online, or in blinkies near the meat. This week they're on sale for $2.50 each, and I used 2 $.55/1 and 2 $1/2 to make each pack about $2. The expiration is still a few months out; so I could stock up.

Thanks to creative couponing, you can get Fiber One bars, Nature Valley bars, Nature Valley clusters, Chex Mix, and Gardetto's Snack Mix for FREE this week. They're not as healthy or green in terms of packaging, but they sure are handy. You might also consider donating them to a food pantry. For details on how to get the best deals this week, go to Southern Savers. Coupon Katie and Gabrielle at Couponing in Critical Times also posted their trips to Kroger for guidance. I saved 53% today (a high percentage for me).

What tips do you have for making school lunches more green?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Last Call for Back to School / Office Supplies

Though I have no insider information about store sales, I trust the advice of savvy couponers like Southern Savers and Gabrielle at Couponing in Critical Times who say grab the deals of school supplies this week because soon they'll be gone. Southern Savers did an exceptional job of detailing where to get the best deals on every B2S sale. I've hit a few of the sales at various stores since they began running nearly a month ago, and I'm happy to report I've stocked up on school and office supplies for the year. When gathering deals, I encourage you to not only think of your child/ren's lists, but what your household needs, what charities that you support could use, and even what your small business could use. And whenever possible, choose the greener option. Here are some of the deals I snagged today. (Do people still say snagged or am I showing my age?!)

If you're heading to Staples this week, take the 20% off coupon in their weekly flyer. Today at Staples, I got the following deals:
  • 2 reams of Hammermill copy paper (will cost $.01 after rebate online--fast and easy); this product is not made from recycled paper, but it is certified with the Sustainable Forestry Initiatve (deal ended today).
  • 1 2 pack of Westcott Kleen Earth 8 inch scissors (on sale for $9.99, coupon took another $2 off); the handle is made of 70% recycled plastic; comes with a 10 year warranty--thus better quality.There were cheaper scissors, but I took one for the environmental team.
  • 10 black Sharpies for $1.60 total (deal ended today).
  • 10 dry erase markers for $1.60 total (deal ended today).
  • 6 notebooks for $.01 each (deal ended today).
  • 1 Staples calculator for $7.19 after coupon; qualifies as "eco easy" with its solar power.
I'd like to add a comment here about the "high cost of cheap." A few months ago, I was lured into buying a calculator in the clearance bin for just $.50. Who can resist $.50 for a piece of technology?! Within 48 hours, Brooke had slobbered on it and pulled it apart--resulting in now a piece of trash that cost me $.50. I was more upset about the electronic waste that would go into landfill than I was about my two quarters. If you haven't yet seen the Story of Stuff, this is a real eye-opener. Please take a few minutes to watch it.

So after that experience, I decided to spend a little more money for technology that was sustainable and that would endure the rigors of kids. Since my husband is an engineer in the solar field, I feel it's important to support solar any way I can. But I digress.

If you want free pens, head to Target for the Bic 10 pack on sale for $.99. Through a Target $1/2 and a manufacturer's $1/2, you can get two packs for FREE (or print both twice and get four packs for free). There's nothing green about disposable pens, but it's a good item to donate to any charitable organization.

Finally, my frugal shopping the past few weeks has allowed me to be generous with donations that our school is giving to another local school. Note: These are not calculated in my Couponing for Charity. I've gathered 10 folders ($.01 each), 6 notebooks ($.01 each), 2 packs of markers ($.77 each), 2 packs of crayons ($.20 each), and 4 glue sticks ($.10 each) for just $2.50 total. It feels good to give, especially on a budget.

FREE Pizza: Worth the Wait?

You know you're in for a worthwhile treat when you see the news and two other coupon bloggers at an event. Thanks to Coupon Katie, I knew that The Pizza Kitchen in Farragut was celebrating 12 years of business by giving away FREE 8 inch cheese pizzas to every customer TODAY. Additional toppings are only $.50 each. They're open til 10pm; so you still have time!

I arrived as close to their open time as I could, but there was still a line out the door. When I asked Frugalissa if the wait was worth it, she replied, "Oh yeah!" After a few minutes inching my way to the front, I noticed Gabrielle from Couponing in Critical Times finishing her pizza. She said that you don't have to stand in line. If you just take a seat, a waiter will bring it to you. I then noticed a few people trapsing right in and walking out with to-go orders. Having already pushed my luck with trips to Staples, the Dollar Tree, Target, and the chiropractor with two kids in tow, I figured I needed to expedite this process.

So I stepped over to ask if they had any take n' bake pizzas ready to distribute. She said yes, and within minutes, I was out the door. For all you planning your strategy for getting free pizza quickly today, I'd recommend anything other than standing in line. For take-out, you can order online or use their DineBlast for mobile (I've never done either but it's worth a try). If you want to dine in, take a seat immediately. And don't forget to thank your waiters properly with a generous tip. After all, you just got a meal for free, and they'll be dog tired by the end of the day.

I haven't yet tasted the pizza because it's for the kids' dinner, but I'm looking forward to it. Their website details how they provide "world class food with hometown flavor." I liked how they slow cook their marinara sauce and use "a dough with a blend of whole grain wheat mixed with high gluten flour for a healthy texture and taste." It's local, it's healthy, and it's free. Get going!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Couponing for Charity 8/15 - 21 & Update #19

Hi there, deal seeking mommas. Here are the best deals I see this week, but honestly there's not a lot to get excited about. Maybe this is a good week to take off.

At Kroger you can still get free Chex Mix, free Gardetto's snack mix (if any is left), and inexpensive granola bars with a Cataline deal. Check out Southern Saver's match-ups here.

If you're going to pick one store for the best financial deals, I'd suggest CVS. Click here for Southern Saver's match-ups and here for Coupon Katie's picks. There are two moneymakers: Zegerid OTC and Blink Tears. You can also get free pens and decent deals on cereal. I might make it to CVS later in the week.

Instead I stopped in today at Walgreen's because I had some RRs about to expire. Click here for Southern Saver's match-ups and here for Coupon Katie's picks. There were no enticing RR deals in my opinion, but I did stock up on one item I need: dry erase markers (4 pack for $1.99, normally $4.99). Last year Bobby must have gone through 20 markers and each time, I paid top dollar and had to make a special trip to get them every time the teacher sent home a note. I don't know if his markers kept finding their way into someone else's pencil box or he couldn't keep the caps on. Regardless, I'm prepared this year! And though 20 extra pens is a little much, I just saw on his teacher's wish list: Expo dry erase markers. I love when a teacher's needs and a good deal coincide! Here's what I bought:

5 packs dry erase markers ($1.99 each)
2 packs of Pilot Frixion Erasable Gel Pens-2 per pack (on sale for $1.99 each but coupons make them free)
2 bags of M&Ms (on sale for $.49 each)
1 8x10 print (FREE if you order online TODAY only when you use "FREE 8X10 DEAL" code)
--Used $10RR ($8, $1, & $1) earned two weeks ago
--Used 2 $1/1 printables for Pilot pens
--Used 1 $1/1 Pilot Frixion coupon in Walgreen's August coupon book (takes off $2)
--Used 1 $.75/2 M&Ms product from paper

Total before tax: $.16
Total with tax: $1.54
Total Savings: $37.54

Yeah, that was fun. It gets even better with a rebate on the back of the Pilot Frixion pens (buy 2 and receive $2.75). What deals are you seeking this week? I won't be donating anything to charity unless I make it to CVS this weeks, so here are my totals:

TOTAL PRODUCTS TO DONATE TO DATE: 10 pens, 3 multi-purpose eye solutions, 1 shampoo, 6 feminine care, 1 pack of napkins, 1 pack of paper, 4 toothpastes, 2 toothbrushes, 1 deodorant, 2 first aid kits, 2 boxes of crayons, 1 fiber supplement, 1 razor
TOTAL SPENT: --$18.52

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reunion Reminiscing

I don't like to date myself, but here goes. Last weekend I went to my 20th high school reunion. Twenty years...really?! I don't feel 20 years older than that excited teenager I was, eager for a whole new life. Heading off to college, I wasn't running away but rather to a new set of adventures. But the path my life took meant I lost touch with nearly everyone in my graduating class. Other than Facebook, this was my first chance to catch up on two decades of events.

As we walked in, I was greeted with warm hugs and smiles. My husband remarked that no one was wearing name tags. We didn't have to. In a graduating class of 36 where half of us were together since kindergarten, it's tough to forget faces and names.

No one can deny the first reaction at reunions is to judge the physical changes: who's thinner, who's heavier, who's grayer, who's balder, who hasn't changed a bit. I was surprised to find that most fell into the last category. If anything, I'd venture to say that most of us are more attractive than we were in high school. Maybe it's that we look more natural than our over-the-top 80's hair and clothes. Maybe it's that with age comes confidence. Maybe it's just wishful thinking.

The second level of reunions is the basic catch-up: where you live, what you do, who you married / divorced / married, how many kids you have. One friend congratulated me on my wedding--thanks, 12 years ago. Oops. Another asked if I'd become a brain surgeon. Is that what people expect of the valedictorian? "Heavens no," I replied. "I'm a video producer, freelance writer, and stay-at-home mother of three young kids--not necessarily in that order." Her face softened. She smiled even more when I applauded her for her dedication as a first grade teacher. Yet another friend commented, "I never pegged you for a SAHM." Had I disappointed my classmates in some way or were they glad to see even the smartest kid in the class (on paper anyway) knew the value in focusing her time and attention on her children?

With a few of my old acquaintances, I moved onto the third level of conversation: the realities of the life we've chosen. I missed our tenth reunion, but I gather that perhaps that was a time to compare successes--not necessarily realities. What degrees had you earned? How was your career going? Had you found Mr./Mrs. Right yet? There was also a natural division of those with kids and those without. By our 20th, our kids now range in age from 12 years old to 10 weeks in the womb. One even talked about adopting. It's not surprising that most of our conversations drifted to the next generation in some way.

"I couldn't even help my kid with her homework; I had to look it up online." "There are days I drive around the block a few extra times before descending into the chaos of home." "My life in LA is the same as everybody else's: packing lunches, car line, and grocery store runs--with the exception of few shin-digs like Jennifer Anniston's birthday party." Marrying a celebrity hadn't given her a big head; kids naturally kept her grounded. The truth is that not only do children change you--they humble you. You see the good, the bad, and the ugly of yourself in them, like a mirror the older they get.

It was refreshing to hear honest conversations; trying to impress each other wasn't a priority. And given more time (and music that wasn't blaring), we may have talked more about high school memories. Funny how that never came up. As one friend put it, "We're just more mellow." I say that's a good thing. Here's to the class of 1990! See you again in five years!

Couponing for Charity Update #18

I have been posting deals but not updating my totals due to trips and lots of projects going on. Before I lose my receipts, I figured I should post my totals for the past two weeks. Note: none of these deals are currently available. Click here for this week's deals.

At CVS, I picked up one U by Kotex feminine care ($4.99, get $4.99ECB, used $1/1 coupon=$1 money maker).

At Target, I picked up four Johnson & Johnson travel first aid kids for $.97 each. I had 2 $3/2 coupons. Though normally, they just mark the coupons down to the price of the item, my clerk gave me the full $6 discount. Since I'm keeping two for the cars and donating two, here are those totals: $1.94 value, saved $3 with coupon=$1.06 money maker). I picked up lots of extra school supplies for cheap just in case that I may donate at a later time.

At Kroger, I had received three catalina coupons for free Poise and Allways pads, all of which I'll be donating. Here are those totals: $2.99, $3.39, $3.39=all free.

At Walgreen's, I didn't get all the deals I was after because the August coupon books had not yet arrived. However, I did well to wait to use the 15% off everything code available for a few days. I made money on 2 boxes of Crayola crayons 24 count. ($1 value, get $1RR; $.85 with my 15% discount code=$.15 money maker each). I also made money on the Complete multi-purpose solution ($7.99 value, get $8RR, $6.79 with 15% discount code, used $1/1 peelie coupon on product=$2.20 money maker). I also got the free Crayola markers, vitamins, and some pull-ups on clearance for nearly free but I'll be keeping those.

Update 8/14: Rather than do another post, I figured, I'd just tag onto the end of this one with a few more deals that you can still get through the end of today. At CVS, I did pick up one Dulcolax (regularly $12.99, on sale for $9.99, get $9.99ECB, used a $5 coupon from All You magazine=$5MM).

I also bought one Hydro razor (regularly $9.99, on sale for $8.97, get $4ECB, used $5 coupon from Sunday's paper, will submit for rebate, making this an $8.97MM.) To make the deal even better, there was a peelie coupon on the razors for a free bottle of Hydro shave cream when you buy a razor (value: $3.99); I'll be keeping that. Note: Since I kept the identical free razor I got a few months ago, and the rebate requires me to open the package and send in the UPC code, I'll donate the un-opened one and keep this one.

I also got a good deal on Huggies since I went over $30 ($9 each, spend more than $10, get $3ECB). I used $5 when you spend $30 coupon from CVS emails and a $4/2 printable which I can't find now. You can get a $3.50/2 here. If you haven't yet signed up for CVS emails, you can get a $4 off $20. All told, I got 2 packs of diapers for $3 each, both of which I'm keeping.

TOTAL PRODUCTS TO DONATE THE PAST TWO WEEKS: 4 feminine care, 2 first aid kits, 2 boxes of crayons, 1 eye solution, 1 fiber supplement, 1 razor
TOTAL SPENT: --$18.53

TOTAL PRODUCTS TO DONATE TO DATE: 10 pens, 3 multi-purpose eye solutions, 1 shampoo, 6 feminine care, 1 pack of napkins, 1 pack of paper, 4 toothpastes, 2 toothbrushes, 1 deodorant, 2 first aid kits, 2 boxes of crayons, 1 fiber supplement, 1 razor
TOTAL SPENT: --$18.52

Not only have I accounted for my tax, but I have a buffer now. Cool.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Budget Totals for June & July

Here's a post I've been putting off because I hate thinking about money. There, I said it. I would prefer feeling good about all the money I "saved" rather than think about all that I spent. Too bad we live in the real world where the bottom line is the more important number. So if you need a little prodding to get your budget in order, hopefully I can provide some inspiration or at least lessons learned.

My monthly budget of $800 includes all groceries, clothing, dining out, and big box stores. I aim for $500 of that to be in groceries and $300 for everything else. Since I had a surplus in May, I had a little cushion for June: $867.72. I thought for sure, I'd come under budget, but... sigh...I didn't.

Here are the June totals:
Grocery: $661.31 (saved $337.81)
Clothing: $234.71 (saved $128.33; includes a $50 gift card not yet spent)
Pharmacies: $101.12 (saved $293.59--74%)
Total Spent: $997.14
Total Saved: $759.73 (43%)
Amount Over Budget: $129.42

So did I do any better in July to redeem myself? Well, yes and no. My Sam's Club membership was expiring in July and I allowed myself one more trip to stock up on some of our favorites. Without that trip, I'd have been in the clear. Could've, would've, should've.

So here are the July totals:
Grocery: $688.47 (includes $384.50 at Sam's; saved $194.76)
Clothing: $119.39 (saved $78.66)
Big Box stores: $74.34 (saved $58.01)
Pharmacies: $67.19 (saved $193.92--74%)
Total Spent: $949.39
Total Saved: $525.35 (36%--lower since Sam's Club savings are not factored in)
Total Over Budget: $149.39

Combining June and July, I went over budget about $280. So what happened? Basically, I got busy or lazy or both and didn't keep a close watch on my spending. "I need it" or "It's such a good deal" were my mantras. It's going to be tough making up that deficit in August / September, but I've got to get back in the black.

I'll be more mindful about my totals each week so that there aren't any surprises by the end of the month. If I spend $35 less a week, I'll be out of debt by 9/30. That's not so hard. I have to decide which purchases I can postpone or forgo, and I'll be actively chipping away at my reserves in the pantry and freezer. I'll probably spread out my Kroger runs to do 3 instead of 4 in a month. One way or another, I'll get back on track because this isn't Monopoly money!

What tips do you have for reducing your debt?

Couponing for Charity 8/8-14

I realize it's Tuesday night and if you're looking for deals, you've probably already found them. Just in case, here are a few of the freebies out there this week. No one store looks like a slam dunk; so you decide. If you're new to Couponing for Charity, go here.

CVS: For Southern Saver's match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here. I'll probably stop in quickly for the two money makers: Dulcolax and Schick hydro razor. With a rebate and the right coupons, those two products alone can make you $14.

Walgreen's: For Southern Saver's match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here. As long as I have the right coupons, I'll pick up the eye solution, body wash, and Pilot pens--all FREE.

Kroger: For Southern Saver's match-ups, go here and here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here. I'll definitely pick up Gardetto's snack mix, Chex Mix, and granola bars for FREE. Don't forget to load your e-savers at Cellfire and Shortcuts. I didn't make it in for the three day sale last week because I was out of town; so I'm itching for some deals.

Target: For Southern Saver's match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here. Though I will likely not make it to Target this week, there are a few freebies to consider: post-it notes, pens, and cheap scotch tape.

I'm behind on the updates of products I have purchased. Coming soon.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Couponing for Charity 8/1-7

Now that I get the paper delivered, I don't always make it out shopping on Sundays. Since the irony of this couponing mission is that I don't usually enjoy shopping, it suits me fine to keep Sunday for family time. I have perused the ads and online blogs and have a few suggestions for those seeking deals.

If you're going to pick one place, I'd choose Walgreen's this week. Here are Southern Saver's match-ups and here are Coupon Katie's picks. You can get FREE vitamins, eye solution, eye drops, aspirin, crayons, and markers. They also have good deals on lots of school supplies (excellent filler items), Listerine, Kellogg's cereals and nutri-grain bars, and Pampers. I'm going to try to find an extra P&G insert from today's paper to get 2 packs of diapers and 2 wipes for just $7 total after RR. Note: You need to buy the 72 count of wipes to use the coupon for free wipes.

Kroger has some decent deals Thursday through Saturday only. It may be time to stock up on Cheerios, Life, and Fiber One bars (all 50% off). Don't forget to check your e-savers and manufacturer's coupons for these items.

For the first time in quite some time, nothing at CVS struck my fancy. I'll be skipping that stop this week, but check for yourself. Here are Southern Saver's match-ups; here are Coupon Katie's picks.

Last week, I did pick up a few items for charity: 1 feminine care and 2 travel first aid kits. I'll update all my totals once I do my shopping this week.

What deals are you going after this week?