Sunday, December 21, 2008

CVS Deals: December 21 - 27

Run as fast as you can to your nearest CVS! There are TONS of free after ECB items Sunday & Monday only. This is a great week to stock up on a few items, or roll ECBs (especially ones you might have gotten at Thanksgiving).

Free after ECB items that we got: (Only valid SUNDAY & MONDAY!)

$6.00 - Rightguard Professional Strength Deodorant (limit 5)
$2.99 - Listerine Mouthwash (limit 5)
$2.59 - Halls Naturals (limit 1)
$3.99 - Excedrin Express Gels (limit 1) (used $2/1 coupon here)
$5.99 - Zipfizz Energy mix (limit 1)
$5.99 - Sally Hansen Lacquer Shine nail color (limit 2) (used CVS Beauty Book coupon $3/2 Sally Hansen nail color)
$6.99 - L'Oreal HIP eye shadow (limit 2)
$1.69 - EAS AdvantEdge bar (limit 1)
$7.49 - EAS AdvantEdge shake (limit 1)
$4.99 - Zantac 150 (limit 1) (used $1.00 coupon from newspaper insert)

We also received a $5/$15 CRT - so be on the lookout for these!!

Other good deals we purchased this week: (These deals are good all week.)

$6.99 - Lever 2000 8-pack bar soap (only earns $1 ECB - this was a need!) (used $1.00 coupon from old newspaper insert)
$2.99 - Crest Pro-Health toothpaste (earns $2 ECBs) (used $1.00 coupon from P&G)
$2.99 - Crest Pro-Health rinse (earns $2 ECBS) (used $.75 coupon from P&G)

I'd normally post deal ideas, but there are so many free items I think you may have the best success this week matching your available ECBs to the items on sale! Happy CVSing!

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Christmas Treat

I grew up in a family where we made the same Christmas cookies every year. Everyone had their own personal favorite, and it wasn't that hard to make just one more type of cookie. (Especially with 3 girls + mom who all liked to bake!)

Obviously, with just 2 of us I'm not doing much baking this year. We seem to be eating a ton of sweets as it is, thanks to generous neighbors and friends, and we'll be headed to my parents for Christmas. But, as I said, I love to bake! So, how to solve this problem? We're having a few friends over for a dessert drop-in - the perfect chance to see them during this season and to enjoy some homemade goodies. :)

So, I get to try this new recipe from my aunt that doesn't have a name to us yet:

Take two big Cheez-it crackers & spread peanut butter between them. Dip them in melted chocolate, then let harden on waxed paper. They taste a little bit like Butterfingers!

I just wanted to share this super simple, delicious recipe with y'all! (Even though I haven't made them yet, I did have a chance to try one. ) Hope you enjoy!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Remembering Others This Christmas

Many of the readers of this blog, and others like it, are incredibly frugal. Let's face it, a lot of you use coupons, only shop sales, play "the drugstore game", and just generally know the best ways to save. So today I'd like to challenge you - who better to help others than those who know how to stretch a penny the farthest?

Now don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not trying guilt-trip you into donating some of your hard-earned stash! I'm simply suggesting that this is the perfect time of year to consider who else could benefit from your thriftiness. Times are tough for everyone, and I heard this past week how food pantries are particularly suffering.

My challenge to you this week: consider how others can benefit from your frugality! You can bless not only your family, but many others this holiday season.

And, in case you thought I was being a little vague with this post - this was intentional: be creative in ways you can help others! You know you and your family's strengths and how to best utilize them. :) For more frugal tips, head on over to Frugal Friday to check them out.

I'd love to hear specific ways your family has found to (frugally) be a blessing to others this Christmas! Please share in the comments so we can all benefit from your ideas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

O Christmas Tree

As part of our first married Christmas, we had to decide what we wanted to do about a Christmas tree.  Both me & J grew up having a real tree every year, and we really wanted to carry on this tradition.  So... we stopped at a roadside place the other night to check some out and were FLOORED with the prices!  We had money in the budget for a tree, and this was something we both really wanted, but um, $70??  I don't think so!  Not to mention we had no idea of how long they had been cut.   (Every person that sells trees always says "they were cut yesterday"!)  

We came home and did a little thinking, like how badly we really wanted a tree and how much we really wanted to spend on it.  Then yesterday we called a few places and decided to go to a tree farm!  My first thought was that tree farms would be more expensive - you get a fresher tree and you get the "experience" of the farm.  Boy was I wrong!  

We had a great time picking out exactly which tree we wanted.  They had several varieties, all different heights, and a huge assortment!  They offered free hot chocolate, they helped you put it in or on your car, and just let you enjoy the whole process.  And, on top of all that, the costs were less than half as much as what the roadside places were asking!!  

Check out this site if you'd like to find a Christmas tree farm near you.  Or, if you've opted to have an artificial tree or go a different route, please leave a comment!  I'd love to hear what everyone else does about this.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday: Keeping a Dust Ruffle in Place

The Problem: Every time I would change the sheets on our bed, I would fight with the dust ruffle to keep it from sliding waaay off the end of the bed. Sometimes I'd try to fix it, other times the dust ruffle (or bedskirt if you prefer to call it that...) would just stay out of place until the next time I'd change the sheets.

The Solution: My mom told me about these amazing things - TWIST PINS. (I think she might have called them upholstery tacks, but this is what I could find that looked like she described.)

You just twist them into your dust ruffle & box springs, and the head on them is nice and flat. This second picture shows you a little bit what it looks like from the side - all you can see poking out of the box springs is a little clear head. Ever since I've done this, there's been no more fighting with the dust ruffle!! Definitely works for me!

For more tips & tricks, check out Rocks In My Dryer's Works for Me Wednesday. Or, take a look at some of my older posts.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I just have to throw out a quick plug for my sister's new Etsy shop, PLUM BeaN. She makes THE most adorable fleece hats for babies. The first one was for my 3 1/2 month old niece, and they were too cute not to put up on Etsy.

They would make excellent Christmas gifts or baby shower gifts - run over to to her shop right now & pick out your favorite!

CVS Deals: November 30 - December 6

I don't think I've ever seen the deals quite as slim as they are this week, but hey, it's hard to complain after last weekend. These are just a few things I picked up this week & rolled a few ECBs with, as well. Most are monthly deals.

Transaction #1:

$8.99 - Complete contact solution (earns $8.99 ECBs - so free!)
$4.00 - 2 packs of Trident gum (earns $1 ECB)
$4.99 - Five Hour Energy (earns $4.99 ECBs - so free!)

Coupons used:
-$2.00 Complete, found here
- $15.97 ECBs from previous trip

Total after coupons & ECBs: $.01

Earned: $14.98 ECBs ($8.99, $4.99 & $1.00)

I was planning to stop with Transaction #1, but a $5/$15 coupon printed out! If you have one of these, this second deal is a $5 moneymaker!!

Transaction #2:

$8.99 - Complete contact solution (earns $8.99 ECBs - so free!)
$10.00 - (6) Promax enery bars (earns $5 ECBs for 3 - so free!)

Coupons used:
-$5/$15 CRT printed on Transaction #1 (if you didn't get the $5/$15, just get 3 Promax bars)
-$14.98 ECBs from Transaction #1

Total after coupons & ECBs: $.01

Earned: $18.99 ECBs ($8.99 & $10.00)

Come back next week & maybe the deals will be a little better! :)

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How to Make Cute Tinsel Ornaments

For our first Christmas together, my husband & I really wanted to make some ornaments. We don't have many of our own yet, and thought this would be a fun way to build our collection. One of my friends gave me this great idea for ornaments. Here's how you make them:

Step One: Gather supplies. Super cheap & pretty easy to find. Some tinsel (I found mine at the Dollar Tree), craft ornaments (found at Hobby Lobby or Michael's or another craft store), scissors, and a pencil!

Step Two: Remove top to the ornament.

Step Three: Use the pencil eraser to help push the tinsel inside the ornament. Stuff as much tinsel as you like inside (it doesn't take much!), then snip off any remaining pieces that are too
stubborn to be forced inside.

When you finish, put the top back on the ornament! You can hang these on your tree, give them as gifts, or put them in a bowl as a centerpiece. We opted for the last option (as we don't have a tree right now) and love the way it turned out! Let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving (& CVS!)

Happy Thanksgiving!  (A few days late, I realize.)  We enjoyed our first Thanksgiving as a married couple at my parents' house with some good time with family, a great Thanksgiving dinner, and even a bonfire!  As CVS is new to us this year, we were blown away by the sales this past weekend!  My sister & her boyfriend even both got a CVS card & started learning the ropes.  You can see below what we came home with (between all three of us):

Because there were three of us making transactions, we went through the line so many times that we even returned later in the day to take the cashier some gingerbread.  It was the least we could do after being "those customers" in the morning.  

I hope you all had an enjoyable Thanksgiving as well!  And... come back tomorrow to see some super easy, fun Christmas ornaments that we've made today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008



I know this movie has been out for a little while now, but seeing as how I can't remember the last time I saw a movie in the theatre (was it really 2 years ago??), I thought this was still pretty timely. :) All I have to say about this movie, is if you are married, or ever want to get married, you should go see this movie. That's it - just go see it!

If you're at all like me, you might cringe at the rising price of movie tickets and the inevitable disappointment of the show you see. Check for a coupon in your Entertainment book, if you have one, or go to a matinee for slightly cheaper options. This movie was much more real, a whole lot less cheesy, and definitely more challenging than I had anticipated. So, if you're looking for a date night that will challenge you & your signifcant other to dig a little deeper, give this movie a shot! I don't think you'll regret it!!

CVS Thanksgiving Deals!

These deals are amazing!! Make sure you get to your store early before they're gone. I checked the store near where we'll be for Thanksgiving, and they said they have normal operating hours, 8am til 10pm.

The deals below are the best way that I could divide up my current ECBs plus the ECBs that I will receive in order to have the lowest out of pocket cost. Hope this helps you figure our your transactions! And... have a very happy Thanksgiving!

(If you're looking for the regular weekly deals this week, check out my other post here. The items below are just on sale Thursday-Saturday this week.)

Transaction #1:

$6.99 - Universal remote (Earns 6.99 ECBs)
$7.99 - Titanium Schick Quattro Trimmer (Earns $6 ECBs)
$4.47 - (3) Gatorades (1.49 each) (Earns $4.47 ECBs)
$3.79 - Sally Hansen Nail Polish (Earns $3.79 ECBs)

Total before coupons & ECBs: $23.24

Coupons to use:
-$4.00 Schick razor, December All You magazine
-$1/2 Gatorade G2, CVS Beauty Book coupon
- $17.98 ECBs from previous trip

Total after coupons & ECBs: $.26 (plus applicable tax)
Earns: $21.25 ECBs ($6.99, $6, $4.47 & $3.79)

Transaction #2 (this is a pretty large transaction - you may want to break this into smaller ones):

$8.99 - Complete contact solution (Earns $8.99 ECBs)
$2.99 - Colgate toothpaste (Earns $2.99 ECBs)
$3.99 - Playtex sport tampons (Earns $3 ECBs)
$5.69 - Johnson's Softlotion (Earns $5.69 ECBs)
$5.99 - Bic Soleil Razor (Earns $5.99 ECBs)
$6.99 - Loreal lip gloss (Earns $6.99 ECBs)
$7.99 - Covergirl liquid makeup (Earns $7.99 ECBs)

Total before coupons & ECBs: $42.63

Coupons to use:
- $1.50 Colgate toothpaste found here
- $1 Playtex found here
- $3 Bic razor, newspaper insert
- $1 any Covergirl makeup, newspaper insert
- $21.25 ECBs from Transaction #1
- $14.49 ECBs from a previous week

Total OOP: $.39 (plus tax)
Earns: $41.64 ECBs!!

Transaction #3:

$2.99 - Colgate toothpaste (Earns $2.99 ECBs)
$1.00 - King-sized Hershey's bar...yum! (Earns $1 ECBs)
$5.98 - (2) Aussie products (2.99 each) (Earns $5.98 ECBs)
$5.99 - Bic Soleil Razor (Earns $5.99 ECBs)
$6.99 - Loreal lip gloss (Earns $6.99 ECBs)
$5.99 - Covergirl pressed powder (Earns $5.99 ECBs)
$5.99 - Garnier Nutrioniste Cleansing Towelettes (Earns $5.99 ECBs)

Total before coupons & ECBs: $34.93

Coupons to use:
- $1.00 Colgate toothpaste, newspaper insert
- $1.00 any Aussie product, newspaper insert

- $3 Bic razor, newspaper insert
- $1 any Covergirl makeup, newspaper insert
- $28.66 ECBs from Transaction #2 ($8.99, $5.69, $5.99, & $7.99)

Total OOP: $.27 (plus tax)
Earns: $34.93 ECBs!!

CVS Deals: November 23-29

This was one of my best CVS trips ever due to a really nice manager! I have no idea if these deals will work everywhere, but it's definitely worth asking about - especially to grow your ECBs before Thursday!

(If you'd like to check out some scenarios for the sale Thursday-Saturday of this week, check out my other post here.)

Transaction #1:

$8.99 - Complete contact solution (earns $8.99 ECBs - so free!)
$3.49 - Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste (Monthly deal - free after ECBs)
$.88 - Candy Canes (filler that I also just wanted)

Coupons used:
-$1.00 when you buy 2 toothpastes, newspaper insert
- $15 ECBs from previous trip

Total after coupons & ECBs: $.91

Earned: $12.48 ECBs ($8.99 & $3.49)
(NOTE: According to my receipt, the Crest toothpaste limit is 4 - I thought it was 5. If you haven't reached this limit of 4 you'll earn $3.49 more ECBs than I did.)

Transaction #2:

$8.99 - (2) Maybelline Liquid Mineral Makeup

I had brought just one makeup up to the counter & the manager then informed that the makeup was on sale buy one, get one free. So, I grabbed another one, and he rang it up. **UPDATE: A friend also tried this & let me know that this did not work for her. Apparently, it's not really buy one get one free - I apologize if any of you tried this.**

Used $8.99 ECBs from Transaction #1

Total OOP: $0
Earns: $17.98 ECBs!! (apparently the makeup limit is 2)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Newlyweds' First Christmas!

As Christmas is very quickly approaching, we're starting to think of some ways that we can make our first married Christmas special, while also beginning to think of traditions we'd like to keep for the years to come.

For now, we've been doing a little bit of shopping for a few Christmas decorations. Both of us love the idea of decorating our house for the season, and I think this will be a fun tradition for us for years to come. I can't wait to put up a few pictures of our results!

Also, come back within the next week to find a super cute, cheap, and easy ornament idea!! We're getting the supplies to make these & I'll show you how neat they are soon. :)

For now, what is one special memory you have of your first Christmas as a newlywed? Please share... I'd love to hear ways you make your holidays special! And if you haven't had that first married Christmas yet, what is something you're looking forward to?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday: Being Intentional

My husband & I are like most of you: busy! We've had lots of conversations about how to manage our time better, how to get things done more quickly, etc, etc. Sometimes this can be draining, and might even wear us out just talking about how we'd like to be more efficient at the everyday things in life.

So, what worked for us this past week was getting out of the house, getting some coffee, and having great conversation! We were amazed at how much better our conversation was when we could focus our attention, not being distracted by the clutter on the kitchen table or any number of other things.

I think we both knew that being intentional was important for our relationship - but we were definitely made aware of the importance again this past week!

Go here for more great tips at Rocks in My Dryer, or check out my previous Works for Me Wednesday posts.

Long Time, No Post

I'd like to apologize for my extended, unannounced absence. Let's just say that grad school, a new marriage, new city, and normal life have all kept me rather occupied the past couple months. That said... I plan to be around a bit more regularly... don't give up on me please! :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Favorite: Cheesy Ranch & Bacon Mashed Potatoes

While I can't commit to saying that this is our absolute favorite recipe (that would most likely be poppyseed chicken), this is definitely one of our favorites & maybe a little different for some of you! So, without further ado:

Cheesy Ranch and Bacon Mashed Potatoes
1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
1 c. sour cream
1 3/4 c. milk
1 (22 oz.) pkg. frozen mashed potatoes
6 cooked & crumbled bacon slices
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Whisk together dressing mix, sour cream, and milk in a large glass bowl. Stir in frozen mashed potatoes. Microwave on high for 12 minutes - stirring every 4 minutes. Stir in the crumbled bacon & cheese.

Serves: 8

So easy but soo good! Hope you enjoy. :)

Menu Plan Monday - September 22-28

Welcome to my post for Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Once again, we have our weekly potluck on Wednesday. We're also starting to paint our den/dining room this weekend, so quick meals were definitely in order this week!

Since this is Family Favorites edition of Menu Plan Monday, check out one of one of our favorites, Cheesy Ranch & Bacon Mashed Potatoes. There are so many recipes that we love, it's hard to pick one - but give these are a try, they are delicious!!

Monday: Cranberry chicken (in the crockpot), sauteed asparagus, rice. We need to start using up the cranberry sauce from our Sav Mor trip - another ideas for how to use cranberry sauce?

Tuesday: Homemade pizza & spinach salad

Wednesday: potluck! I'm taking crockpot green beans.

Thursday: Tuna mushroom casserole.

Leftover homemade pizza from Tuesday. (We make two, eat one & save one for another night usually.)

Saturday: Leftovers for lunch, spaghetti from the freezer for dinner.

Sunday: grilled hotdogs for lunch, breakfast for dinner!

Please let me know any suggestions you may have for our menu plan or for things you'd like to see in my future menu planning posts!

CVS Deals: September 21-27

This week I really used the first transaction to help "grow" my ECBs and start the candy deal (for Halloween), but I was really most excited about the second transaction! I also spent more out of pocket than usual, but we got a lot of things that we really needed that don't normally give ECBs (toilet paper, for example - at least as far as I've seen).

Transaction #1:

$11.99 - Revlon Revitalift (earns $11.99 ECBs - so free!)
$4.99 - Nivea for Men Body Wash (earns $4.99 ECBs - moneymaker after coupon!)
$4.99 - Adidas deodorant (earns $4.00 ECBs - free after coupon!)
$9.00 - (2) Hershey's big bags M&M (start toward spend $15/get $7 ECBs candy deal)

Coupons used:
-$5/$30 CVS coupon from e-mail
-$2 Hershey's big bags - CVS CRT (cash register coupon)
-$1.00 Nivea body wash, newspaper insert
-$1.00 Adidas deodorant, newspaper insert

Total after coupons: $23 (not exactly - I lost my receipt)
Used $14 ECBs from previous trip

Total OOP: $8 (again, this is a higher than normal OOP, but helps out transaction #2)
Earns: $20.98 ECBs ($11.99, $4.99, & $4.00)

Transaction #2:

$12.98 - (2) Cottonelle toilet paper 12 packs (toward spend $25, get $10 ECBs)
$6.49 - Viva 8 pack paper towels (toward spend $25, get $10 ECBs)
$6.00 - (6) Kleenex (finishes spend $25, get $10 ECBs)
$6.16 - (7) Hershey's/Mars 8-pack candy (finishes spend $15, get $7 ECBs from transaction #1)

Coupons used:
-$5/$30 CVS coupon from email
-$.50 Cottonelle from 9/21 newspaper insert
-$.50 Cottonelle from older newspaper - nice cashier took expired coupon
-$.50/3 Kleenex from newspaper insert
-$.35 Viva paper towels

Total after coupons: $24.28
Used $20.98 ECBs from Transaction #1

Total OOP: $3.30
Earns: $17 ECBs ($10.00 & $7.00)

(I won't be doing these deals again, but according to my receipt, the Kimberly Clark deal AND the candy deal both have a higher limit than 1 as advertised!)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mmm... Ice Cream!

Don't miss out on this... FREE Cold Stone Creamery ice cream on September 25 from 5-8 pm.
Find a location near you here. Also, it does look like they will be accepting donations to help the Make-a-Wish foundation. What better - great ice cream all for the cost of helping a great cause?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Newlywed Tip #4: Exercising Together!

So the wedding is over, jobs are busier, you're cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry for two now instead of one... and you just can't seem to find the time to exercise that you could before the wedding! I'd be pretty surprised if I was alone in this. :) You've also lost the motivation of "I need to fit into my wedding dress". So... what now?

We've found that some of our best motivation for exercising can come from each other! It's much more fun to walk or run with someone else than to attempt this by yourself. It also keeps you accountable.

Here are 5 simple tips to help you get the most out of your exercise as newlyweds:

1. Start small!! This may be obvious, but if you try to run a marathon right off the couch, you'll hurt yourself and lose any motivation that you had before you started.

2. Pick something you both enjoy. This could be running, walking around your neighborhood, playing tennis, or even tossing the frisbee.

3. Make a plan. You're much more likely to get out and stretch your legs if you set time aside for this. (Side note: we're still working on this part! We're learning how important this really is.)

4. Better late than never. Or maybe, better something than nothing. :) Even a 10 minute walk is worth it. We find that we feel our best when we're regularly getting outside for something.

5. Be creative and have fun! Try something you haven't tried since you were a kid - like roller blading or playing basketball. Don't be scared to try something just because you haven't done it in a while, and keep trying new things until you find something you both really enjoy.

And just for fun - we love this website WalkJogRun that lets you click on a map to figure out how far you've walked, jogged, or run. Happy exercising!

*Picture taken this summer on a hike.

Inbox Dollars

I recently joined Inbox Dollars, a free program that allows you to make money simply by reading emails or completing other offers. I tend to be pretty skeptical of things like this, thinking they may be scams or just a waste of time.

While I haven't gotten paid yet (you have to reach $30 before they send you a check), the money is adding up at a slow but steady rate. They send me a few emails a day, I click on the "Confirm this paid email" link, and I make a few cents. It really only takes a few seconds. You can also make more money by taking surveys or completing special offers. Be careful though because some of these are not 100% free!

If any of you are interested in trying out Inbox Dollars, check out their website here. Or, if you would like to help me out, feel free to click my referral link here. One other tip - you may not want all of these emails to come to your regular email address. I have a separate address for offers from stores and such that I wouldn't want to clutter my normal inbox.

I know there are other programs like this - Cash Crate, eBates, etc, and I haven't tried enough of them to make a fair comparison. I know some will pay you sooner than others, and some pay you by gift cards instead of cash.

What types of programs do you use to earn a little money online? Or, have you decided it's not worth your time? Please share in the comments below!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reusing Listerine bottles

This Works for Me Wednesday trick comes compliments of my husband! Earlier this summer, we got some Listerine SmartRinse free after ECBs from CVS. Now, one thing we loved about this SmartRinse was how you could squeeze the bottle and exactly 10 mL of rinse would fill up the top & you'd use just the right amount every time.

When we finished the first bottle, Javier figured out that you can pry the top off & refill it with the mouthwash of your choice! It works best to use pliers to grab the little top, but now we can always measure out just the right amount of mouthwash and get to recycle the SmartRinse bottles!

Check out Shannon's blog for more tips!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Easy Sour Cream Muffins

As I wrote about in my Menu Plan Monday (oops... Tuesday!) post, I plan on taking sour cream muffins to our community group's potluck dinner Wednesday. So, in case you'd like this super-easy, super-tasty recipe, here it is:

Sour Cream Muffins

2 c. self-rising flour
1/2 pint sour cream (8 oz.)
1.5 sticks melted margarine

Mix all ingredients together & put in ungreased small muffin tins. Bake @ 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. These also freeze really well!

(I have made them in large muffin tins - this works, but sometimes they're a little doughy in the center.)

Menu Plan Monday - September 8-15

Welcome to my post for Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday! As like last time I did this... it's Tuesday. Apparently I just can't get things together to post on Monday! :)

This week is a bit crazy for us. We have a potluck dinner Wednesday (which will be pretty much every Wednesday from now on), and you can see several other out-of-the-ordinary events below too. Here's our stab at a plan though - it seems even more important to have during a week this crazy!

Tuesday: Leftover homemade pizza & spinach salad - we typically make 2 small pizzas on Sunday, eat one, then save the 2nd for another night or lunches

Wednesday: potluck! I'm taking easy sour cream muffins.

Thursday: Grilled tilapia with mango marinade, salad, and rice. Aldi (my favorite store!) has great deals on fish, and we scored tons of marinade at Sav Mor last Saturday.

Friday: Dinner theater! My dad is in his church play that shows as a dinner theater.

Saturday: Tailgating brunch (I'll make monkey bread), sandwiches for dinner (we'll be worn out after the game!)

Sunday: Lunch at church (provided), make fresh homemade pizza for supper

Monday: Mexican night - Bean burritos, rice, salad

We are blessed that where my husband works, lunch is provided usually several days a week. My lunches will be egg salad sandwiches, pretzels, bananas, or leftovers.

Please let me know any suggestions you may have for our menu plan or for things you'd like to see in my future menu planning posts!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sav-Mor Sidewalk Sale

For those of you who live close to a Sav-Mor Foods, you need to check out their sidewalk sales! I have no idea how widespread this store is - I just know that we have one here in Greenville.

Today was my first experience with the sale - and I will DEFINITELY be going back! Javier & I went with 2 of our good friends with the plan that we would each fill our box up with whatever we could manage, then split what we ended up with.

Here's how it works: Sav-Mor, and other local grocery stores, round up food that has dented packaging or is near/past its expiration date. Since most foods have to have expiration dates well before they will actually go bad, Sav-Mor sells this food at a deeply discounted price at their sidewalk sales. What price, you might ask? $6 for everything you can fit into a large banana box!!

The sale starts at 9:00 at the blow of whistle - very exciting! Before 9:00 you have to line up around the perimeter of the sale (which is also laid out in rows of banana boxes). We got there at 8:30 - but will probably get there earlier next time. Most of the "good stuff" gets gone in the first few minutes, but we were still able to get 3 full boxes between the 4 of us. We fit everything in the picture above into the 3 boxes for a grand total of $18. We certainly won't need salad dressing again for a long time!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Goog 411

Today for Frugal Friday, I want to share about Goog 411. This amazing service offered by Google has saved me lots of time, money & frustration! (FYI - I am in no way associated with Google - I just love this service!)

Goog 411 is a lot like Free 411, except without the ads. All you do is dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411). An automated, voice-activated service picks up & asks you for which city & state you wish to search. You just speak the city & state back into the phone, Goog 411 confirms this, then asks which store or business you wish to find. Once it has found the business, it tells you the address, then connects you directly to the business. And... all this is 100% FREE!

As I'm relatively new to my city, I have used this when running errands and realize I need directions or store hours. This has definitely kept me from being lost at times, and also prevented me from going to a store that was about to close.

For more frugal tips, be sure to check out Frugal Friday at Biblical Womanhood.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday - Freezer Storage Question

Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer is hosting a BACKWARDS edition of Works for Me Wednesday today! I was so excited... because I'm super curious about everyone's best suggestion for freezer storage.

Currently, if I buy a large-ish quantity of meat, I'll subdivide it into meal-sized portions and freeze. Ground beef gets frozen in Ziploc bags, chicken breasts usually get flash-frozen then all stored in one big bag. My dilemma really comes with other types of frozen items. For instance, I made chocolate chip cookie dough & froze some - just in a piece of Gladware. I have no idea if this will keep well or not.

Please let me know your best tips for freezing things (especially meal-type items or things other than just plain meat!). We also have relatively few containers that I can use for freezing things, so I may purchase some soon - any suggestions for this, too?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Help - We Keep Killing the Plants in Our Yard

There has been a really bad drought in our area of the country (upstate South Carolina) with hardly any rain all summer. Praise the Lord - it's actually pouring outside right now & is supposed to continue all day!

Well - with the super-dry conditions we managed to kill lots of the bushes in our yard. Being new homeowners & newlyweds, we weren't quite in the routine of watering our yard, and we also didn't realize that several of the bushes had been recently planted before we purchases the house. This past weekend, I finally pulled them up, making our yard at least look greener, if a little more bare.

We now are at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. It's obviously the wrong time of year to re-plant, but we also want to learn a lot more about different types of plants and maintaining them before we plant anything new. Bushes are pretty expensive, and we don't want to kill the next ones we plant, too!

So - do you have any ideas as to where we could get plant advice? Any great resources that you've used or heard of? Thanks so much!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meal Planning: Flexibility

While today would normally be Menu Plan Monday - I want to address a slightly different point of menu planning today. Being flexible with our meal plan has been the key to saving us a ton! We enter the week with a plan... but as they say in Pirates of the Caribbean "It's more like guidelines". This is true of menu planning too!

Take last week for example. Our meal plan ran from Tuesday-Monday (today). However, it was made before dinner was ever cooked on Monday. We didn't realize that the leftovers from Monday would be more than enough for Tuesday, therefore already pushing our plan back by a day. As for the rest of the week, things just get crazy sometimes - and while a plan helps with the busy-ness - being flexible is even more important! Since leftovers and breakfast for dinner replaced a couple meals that were planned last week, we now have the ingredients on hand for a couple more recipes. I'll incorporate those in this week - cutting way back on our grocery bill!

Come back next Monday for a regular-scheduled Menu Plan Monday!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

CVS Deals: August 22-28 (or 24-30)

I live in an area that is apparently in the test market for changing the CVS ad from Friday through Thursday, so I went ahead and made my visits today (Saturday) since CVS had emailed out a $3/$15 coupon.

Transaction #1:

$11.98 - 2 Zipfizz energy drinks (earns $11.98 ECBs - so free!)
$1.49 - Kotex lightdays (earns $1.49 ECBs - so free!)
$2.50 - Glade candle
$.99 - Softsoap handsoap

Coupons used:
-$3/$15 CVS coupon from e-mail
-$.75 Kotex, SS 7/20/08
-$1.00 Glade candle, newspaper insert
-$.35 Softsoap, newspaper insert

Total after coupons: $11.86
Used $12 ECBs from previous trip - cashier adjusted down

Total OOP: $.13
Earns: $13.47 ECBs ($11.98 & $1.49)

Transaction #2:
(I used a lot of ECBs on this - but this is something that we use a lot of and it is almost never on sale. It is a pretty good deal if you use a lot of contact solution and have the ECBs to cover it. Also, other brands usually irritate my eyes.)

$15.99 Opti-Free value pack contact solution (earns $2 ECBs)

Coupons used:
-$3/$15 CVS coupon from email
-$1 Opti-Free from

Total after coupons: $11.99
Used $11.98 ECBs from Transaction #1

Total OOP: $.07
Earns: $2 ECBs

(You end up paying $5/bottle for the contact solution after ECBs and coupons - not bad for this product!)

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Recipe Fun: Grilled Veggie Sandwich

This recipe was found in an effort to use up a large amount of summer squash. It was INCREDIBLE and we have made it several times since. We couldn't believe how easy this is and how much flavor it has - it's quite surprising.

This recipe came from listed as the California Grilled Vegetable Sandwich. However, below I'm going to tell you how we make it - not too terribly different, but it allows you to use what you have on hand.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T lemon juice
olive oil
vegetables on hand - an assortment of squash, zucchini, onion, and different colored bell peppers all work
feta or mozzarella cheese
hoagie rolls or focaccia bread

1. Mix the mayo, garlic, and lemon juice. Set aside in refrigerator. This amount of mayo could fix up to 4 sandwiches - make more if you'd like.

2. Slice all vegetables - you have to eye how much depending on how many sandwiches you're fixing.

3. Preheat a pan with olive oil. Once hot, cook the vegetables until slightly brown (depending on which veggies you're using).

4. Spread the mayo mixture on open sides of the bread on a baking sheet, top with vegetables, then sprinkle with your choice of cheese (feta is best!). Broil in oven until cheese is slightly melting or bread is beginning to brown.


Date night!

Ever since my husband & I met, we have enjoyed coming up with creative ways to have a date night. Some have been frugal, some not so frugal, but recently we've realized more the benefits from living frugally - so now they mostly fall into this category. :)

Today's date night idea:
Explore your city! You may have just moved there, or you may have lived there for years - but I'll bet there are some parts you haven't driven through yet. A lot of times this is tacked onto something else for us - say, we're on the way home from dinner - but this is almost always tons of fun. We've gotten lost, found new things, stopped to check out a park we didn't know about, and just overall enjoyed some quality time together - no distractions from a dirty house, we're not watching a movie, and we can have good, uninterrupted conversation.

If you try this, let me know what you find! You may be surprised by what's in your city that you never knew was there. :)

Also, for more frugal tips, be sure to check out Frugal Friday.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Household Trick: Recycling Dryer Sheets

It seems like everywhere I look, there is something "green" being advertised! This has definitely sparked my attention at how I use things - and I have noticed that I pay a lot more attention to what I'm throwing away.

Hence: the many uses of used dryer sheets!

This article has twenty - yes twenty! - uses for used dryer sheets. I found this in an effort to clean the mildew out of our shower - dryer sheets work for this! They also are apparently great at freshening lots of things other than clothes, and help get rid of static. So, stop throwing your used dryer sheets away & put them to work for you!

Newlywed Tip #3: Creating a Budget Part Two

In my last post about creating a budget, I addressed reasons why to create one. This post will get a little more detailed on how to actually create a budget.

6 steps to creating a budget

1. The most important thing is that your budget must work for you! This may seem obvious, but if you try to use someone else's system and it's too complicated or too simple, you'll find that you aren't actually sticking to your budget. Keep this in mind while reading the rest of this post.

2. You have to decide what time frame works best for your budget. Most people tend to use a monthly budget, but if you get paid every week and prefer a weekly budget, then that's great, too! Here's one helpful suggestion from my sister: If you get paid bi-weekly, use 2 weeks of pay as your monthly income. Then, two months out of the year, you'll receive three paychecks that month. Since you haven't budgeted for this, it's like a bonus and can be put toward extra savings or some other special goal.

3. Decide which categories you would like to include in your budget. Keep it simple - having too many categories can be overwhelming. Make sure to include enough categories to cover all your purchases, though, and especially make sure to include categories for long-term savings such as for a new car, vacation, or gifts. Even though you may not spend in these categories every month, it's important to set some money aside for them.

4. Allocate a certain amount of your income into each category. This website lists some percentage guides for families of different sizes - it's an excellent place to begin when trying to determine how much to allocate to each category. (It also helps by pointing out important categories to include in your budget.) This may be obvious, but make sure you do not allocate more to expenses than you earn!

5. Find a tool to keep track of your budget. Every expense must be tracked in order for the budget to really work. Some people prefer pencil & paper, some prefer a spreadsheet they've created like Excel, some prefer a budget tool. My current personal preference is Pear Budget, a wonderful budget website that is simple yet lets me customize my budget as much as I need. They offer a free 30-day trial, then it costs $3 a month after that. While I try to save as much as possible on unnecessary expenses, I have found that the $3/month saves me a ton of time and I end up with a budget that works and keeps us on target.

6. Finally, be able to adjust! After a few months of budgeting, you may find that you don't spend quite as much on gas as you thought, but that your average power bill is a good bit higher than you accounted for. Step back, look at your numbers, and tweak them a little. Repeat this every so often and it won't be long before you have the best budget for you!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - August 19-25

Welcome to my first post for Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday! Now, I realize that today is Tuesday, but I just returned from being out of town, so this post is a day late. In the future - look for it on Mondays!

I like to come up with a "theme" for each night (thanks to Simple Mom) and then pick out what we're eating based on the theme. This greatly simplifies my menu planning. See this post on menu planning for a few more tips.

Here's my plan for the week:

Tuesday: Something grilled night - Grilled chicken & spinach salad (with spinach, grilled
(chicken, tomatoes, carrots, and egg)

Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner - Grits, bacon, and muffins

Thursday: Homemade pizza night!

Friday: Asian night - Hibachi shrimp & fried rice (This will be new for us - we're not so sure how it will turn out, but we've been wanting to try it.)

Saturday: Leftovers for lunch, out with friends for dinner

Sunday: Italian night - Spaghetti & salad

Monday: Mexican night - Beef enchiladas

We are blessed that where my husband works, lunch is provided usually several days a week. This gives us enough leftovers for lunch the other days, or I can just eat something simple that we have on hand. We're new to menu planning and are still making adjustments, but we're going to try the Tuesday-Monday plan for a while to see how it works.

Please let me know any suggestions you may have for our menu plan or for things you'd like to see in my future menu planning posts!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Newlywed Tip #2: Menu Planning

Countless blogs advertise the merits of menu planning. I, too, have seen how great a help it can be.

Why menu plan?
  • It cuts down on stress. There's no more "What's for dinner tonight??" panic at 5:00.
  • It lowers the grocery bill. You can plan your menu around what is on sale and grocery shop more efficiently. You also don't have to shop as often if you plan for a whole week, so it reduces impulse buys at the store.
  • It reduces eating out or ordering take out. If you already know what's for dinner, you aren't as likely to go out. You'll go out when you've planned it and know that it's in your budget.
  • You can plan healthier meals. You may be able to eat very healthy when you don't menu plan, but by planning it out you can see that you're eating balanced meals.

I learned from Simple Mom that one good approach is to have different categories that you plan by - this can help you keep the same basic plan for several weeks, just by changing the meal in the category. For example, you can fix something Mexican on Monday, have breakfast for dinner on Tuesday, have a pasta dish on Wednesday, etc.

Stay tuned - I'll be posting my menu plans here as part of Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Newlywed Tip #1: Creating a Budget Part One

While these tips are titled "Newlywed Tips", my hope is that they may be beneficial for you even if you've been married longer - they just may have more relevance for newlyweds.

Why create a budget?

As part of our pre-marital counseling, we were supposed to create a workable budget for after we were married. This has proven to be one of THE most useful things for our marriage. We are, I would say, fairly "average" for Americans our age as far as our income goes. However, by actually categorizing where our money goes, we realized how important it is to stick to our budget.

This helps us in a number of ways. I am, by nature, more of a saver than Javier. The budget therefore helps me feel free to spend more money than I might otherwise. I can see that we have allocated a certain amount each month for eating out, so I don't have to feel guilty when we eat out, or think about what else we could be spending the money on, since those "other things" already have money allocated to them in their respective categories.

For Javier, the budget acts more as a restraint. He is more inclined to spend than I am, so this helps him see how much we have available and how much we have left to spend for the month.

We are still in the process of tweaking our budget until it's just right - we have to make sure we have enough allocated to cover all of the bills and not too much in the less necessary categories. However, the budget enhances our communication and also prevents a lot of stress from constantly having to discuss how to spend our money.

I'll write more on this topic later - but if you'd like to see some excellent budget creation resources, check out this page of the Crown Financial Ministries website.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cheap books!

Javier & I discovered this book store a few nights ago... it's AMAZING! At first we thought it must be illegal, the books were so cheap, but after inquiring we learned that this chain of stores receives books from larger companies like Barnes & Noble at a greatly discounted price. This happens when the larger companies decide they need the warehouse space for something else... which mean that you & I can find incredibly inexpensive, brand new books!

A list of store locations may be found here, or you may shop online as well. The selection is not quite as exhaustive as a "real" bookstore, but it's still incredible.

In case you're wondering just how great of a deal this place is, we bought 4 new, hardcover books for $22. When I looked at the cover price for these books, they would have cost us $85 in a regular store!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My CVS Deals for August 10-16

Learning how to stretch our money at CVS has been very exciting, rewarding, and fun for my husband and I over the past few months. I'd explain how to best shop at CVS, but Crystal at Money Saving Mom already does an excellent job here.

Without further ado, here are my transactions for the week:

Transaction #1:
$12 - 4 bags Dove chocolate (earn $5 ECBs when you buy $10 of select candy)

-$6 - 2 BOGO printables from several weeks ago on

Total after coupons: $6
Used $5.79 ECBs from a previous trip

Total OOP: $.27

Earns: $5 ECBs

Transaction #2:
$5.99 - Alavert (earns $3 ECBs)
$6.99 - CVS Skin Effects Product (earns $5 ECBs)
$5.76 - 2 Herbal Essence Mousse (no ECBs earned - I just needed this & had a coupon)
$.50 - SweetTarts candy (filler - also earns toward cand
y deal in case I decide to do that again)
$.50 - Spree candy (same as SweetTarts)

-$2 Alavert CRT (printed last week!)
-$4 Alavert manufacturer's Q here
-$2 CVS Skin Effect Q - CVS Beauty Magazine

-$2 when you buy 2 Herbal Essence product - P&G 8/3/08

Total after coupons: $9.74
Used $9.99 ECBs from a previous trip

Total OOP: $.09
Earns: $8 ECBs

It turns out I could have done this all in one transaction, but at first I hadn't completely planned my second transaction and thought I'd need the ECBs from the first one. This just goes to show how important the planning is!

*Also, since this is my first CVS post, I just want to let you know - I typically try to keep my CVSing to just a few transactions a week and I try to keep them reasonable. For example, I will stockpile items that are a good deal or that have potential to be given away, but I also try to be realistic and can say no to CVS on weeks that just aren't worth my time to go there.


Let me first tell you a little story of a few months ago. Javier & I purchased a house shortly before we got married, and he would be living there until the wedding. We also had to buy bedroom furniture (so he wouldn't have to sleep on the hardwood floors!) so we set this up in the 2nd bedroom at first. He was going to paint our bedroom so when I moved in after the wedding, we'd be greeted by a freshly painted room.

The week before the wedding, I had taken a load over to the house & some friends where there helping us. They helped us move the bedroom furniture from the extra bedroom to what would soon be our room, and we asked them to help us attach the mirror to the back of the dresser since they also had their drill with them. Well, the mirror had remained in its box for the past couple months... and when we took it out to put it up, what did we find but a TABLE! Javier called the furniture company the next day and we planned to exchange it after returning from our honeymoon.

A week and a half later... we return the table and get a mirror (yes it really is a mirror - we checked carefully this time) and bring it home. We still didn't have a drill, so the mirror stayed in its box for a few days until we could borrow one. Finally... we get to put the mirror up! We take it out of the box, and this time it's CRACKED! Whew... talk about testing our patience. (I forgot to mention that the furniture store is a good 30 minutes from our house.) The third try... we really did get a mirror and it wasn't cracked. :)

Fast forward to yesterday....

Last night, Javier & I went to Lowe's to purchase a rug that we've been thinking about for a while now. We were pretty excited to set the rug up and see just how much it would add to the room. Well... as we were taking the plastic wrap off, what do we find but that the rug is somehow dirty UNDER the protective plastic. I tried cleaning it, but to no avail. It looks like we'll be taking it back to Lowe's tonight.

After this occurred, Javier remarked that we should know by now - almost every major purchase we've made since we've been married has had to be returned at least once! :) (There are others beside the mirror & this rug... I'll spare you the details!)

Monday, August 11, 2008

No Place I'd Rather Be?

As with all new bloggers, waves of ideas for the famous first post keep rushing through my head. In an effort to help you understand a bit of what you may find on this blog, as well as help me get past the wall that is this post, I'd like to explain this blog's title.

Upon first glance, you may very likely think "Why yes, there are dozens of places I'd rather be than sitting right here staring at my computer". That, however, is not why I picked this name. :) First, it's part of a song (yes, a bit cheesy...) by Shenandoah that says "There ain't no place that I'd rather be, next to you, sitting next to me." I'm a newlywed of 100 days (today!) and while there are tons of "Mom blogs" available, there aren't quite as many for folks without children. My goal is to bring you lots of helpful tips (time-saving, money-saving, and just plain fun) without assuming that you are already a parent. Hopefully, some of you who are will find this site informative as well though!

The second reason why I liked this name is that it reminds me of a quote by Jim Elliot who said "Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation that you believe to be the will of God." This quote has been a very positive challenge to me in different times of my life, encouraging me to not desire a change of circumstance, but rather a change of my heart.

So, while this blog will have a heavy emphasis on "newlywed tips", my hope is that it will also encourage you to delight in whatever situation may come your way.